GUAM (Reuters) - Rescue teams and heavy equipment were mobilized across the Northern Mariana Islands on Thursday after a super typhoon hit U.S. Western Pacific territories overnight, causing blackouts and damage to critical infrastructure.
With sustained winds of over 270 km per hour (168 mph) typhoon Yutu pulled down trees, telegraph poles and tore roofs from buildings as it passed through the chain of 15 islands, located more than 9,000 km west of the U.S. mainland.
“Many homes have been destroyed, our critical infrastructure has been compromised, we currently have no power and water at this time and our ports are inaccessible,” said Joey Patrick San Nicolas, mayor of the island of Tinian.
There were no immediate reports of casualties. In a video posted on his Facebook page, San Nicolas said about 30 people had been rescued and more were expected to be reached later in the day.
The power distribution system was completely destroyed, he said, and requests had been made for water and food, which could be delivered by air as the Tinian’s airport runway was undamaged.
Yutu had prior to its arrival been described by local authorities as one of the most powerful typhoons to hit the Northern Mariana islands in recent history.
It was the second major typhoon to hit the territory after Mangkhut struck in September, bringing strong winds and rains that caused damage in Hong Kong and Macau and triggered landslides that killed dozens in the Philippines.
Yutu was moving slowly towards the northern Philippines and Taiwan, but reducing in intensity.
Images and footage posted on social media showed broken widows, debris scattered across roads, and damaged vehicles, some overturned.
Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, the Marianas’ delegate to the U.S. Congress, on Twitter said authorities were working to open more shelters as existing ones were either full or had sustained damage. He said it was likely a team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency would arrive on Friday.
Governor Ralph Torres urged the public to stay safe and avoid taking risks and said the islands would recover swiftly.
“While we have been battered by this disaster, we will be stronger because we are resilient,” Torres said.
Reporting by Maureen Maratita; Writing and additional reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore