Guam emerges to find ‘major mess’ from Typhoon Mawar

Authorities in the US territory of about 150,000 people had urged residents to take shelter ahead of storm’s arrival.

The top of a palm tree swept horizontal by the wind amid torrential rain as Typhoon Mawar hits Guam
Violent winds herald the arrival of Typhoon Mawar in Guam [James Reynolds via AFP]

The United States territory of Guam is assessing the damage after Typhoon Mawar swept across the Pacific island bringing torrential rain as well as tree-shredding winds and whipping up a storm surge that crashed through its coral reefs.

The central and northern parts of the island were deluged in 60cm (more than 2 feet) of rain as the storm’s eye passed, Brandon Aydlett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) told the Associated Press news agency.

The territory’s international airport flooded after the Category 4 storm made landfall and the Guam Power Authority said tens of thousands of homes were without power on Thursday although a total blackout had been avoided.

“We are waking up to a rather disturbing scene out there across Guam. We’re looking out our door and what used to be a jungle looks like toothpicks – it looks like a scene from the movie ‘Twister’ with trees just thrashed apart,” said Landon Aydlett, his twin brother and fellow NWS meteorologist.

“Most of Guam is dealing with a major mess that’s gonna take weeks to clean up,” he added.

Authorities in the Pacific island territory of about 170,000 people had urged residents to stock up on supplies and take shelter ahead of Mawar’s arrival, fearing a “direct hit” from a storm that was predicted to be the most severe in 20 years.

The typhoon hit the northern part of Guam on Wednesday evening with winds of up to 225km per hour (140 mph), the NWS reported, and generated waves as high as nine metres (30 ft).

Videos shared on social media showed fallen trees, a flooded airport and cars turned over by the howling winds. No deaths or injuries have been reported so far.

Leah del Mundo spent the night with her family in their concrete home in Chalan Pago, in central Guam. She told The Associated Press they tried to sleep but were awakened “by violent shaking of the typhoon shutters and the whistling strong winds”.

“It’s not our first rodeo,” she said via text message. “We’ve been through worse. But we brace ourselves for the cleanup, repairs, restoration afterwards.”

At one of the island’s many hotels, the 30-floor Dusit Thani Guam Resort, front desk clerk Casey Hattori said the lobby was inundated with about 30cm (1 ft) of water, even with the front door barricaded with boards and bags of concrete. Outside, trees snapped in the wind.

“I can hear the walls shaking. The wind is super strong. I can hear it whistling as it comes through the cracks of the doors,” Hattori told the AFP news agency.

The scope of the damage was difficult to gauge early on, with power and internet blackouts hampering communications with the remote island.

Guam is about 1,575km (1,600 miles) east of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and 6,115km (3,800 miles) west of the US state of Hawaii.

The territory’s Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, who earlier compared Mawar with a devastating 1962 typhoon, said she and other officials would head out to assess the situation as soon as conditions were safe.

They will look for “any major damages or blocked roadways in the wake of Typhoon Mawar”, a statement said on Thursday.

“As Guam received the full brunt of the typhoon overnight, the assessment will help determine what damages may have occurred.”

In a sign of how much help Guam might need, the US Navy ordered the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group, which is currently south of Japan, to head to the island to assist in the recovery effort.

They are expected to arrive in Guam, the site of a key US military hub, in three or four days, a US official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

After moving away from Guam, Mawar is expected to track generally over the ocean for days and could threaten Taiwan or the Philippines next week.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies