'Monster Mawar' super storm hits Guam

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United States President Joe Biden has approved a state of emergency for Guam, as the military mobilises resources against Typhoon Mawar which is bearing down on it on Wednesday night.

Guam’s weather service said the category 4 storm arrived with hurricane-force winds of up to 160kph.

Power has been cut in the capital Hagåtña and some residents told Stuff internet connections were also down.

Governor for the US territory Guam, Lou Leon Guerrero, said the Navy had sent its fleet of ships out to sea, with more than 6000 US service members assigned to help in evacuation and other emergency services.

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MetService said schools and businesses were closed, with an extreme wind warning issued for northern Guam at 8pm local time.

While Mawar’s devastation was unknown, the early effects of the super storm were already being felt in the capital.

More than 6000 members of Guam's National Guard have been assigned to help in evacuation and other emergency services.

Guam National Guard

More than 6000 members of Guam’s National Guard have been assigned to help in evacuation and other emergency services.

Trees were toppled, and power lines brought down forcing road closures as the National Guard helped evacuate residents fleeing rising waters around their homes.

Guerrero said the emergency declaration would support the mobilisation of resources into Guam after the storm, “given our distance from the continental US”.

People stockpiled supplies, battened down windows and abandoned wood and unsafe homes for emergency shelters.

Guerrero ordered residents along coastal, low-lying and flood-prone areas – more than 150,000 people – to evacuate to higher ground from Tuesday.

Anyone not living in a concrete house was urged to seek safety elsewhere ahead of ‘monster Mawar’, which is set to be the strongest storm to hit the US Pacific territory in decades.

The last super typhoon to hit Guam was category 4 Pongsona in 2002, which left one person dead and US$730 million (NZ$1.2 billion) damage bill.

Lead meteorologist Patrick Doll said the storm had been upgraded to a “super typhoon, meaning maximum sustained winds of 150kph or greater.

“Its centre was about 145 kilometres southeast of Guam early Wednesday local time and moving north-northwest,” he told journalists.

Mawar is a Malaysian word that means “rose,” Doll said.

A fallen tree blocks the road in the Guam capital, Hagåtña, on Wednesday. (Photo: Guam Daily Post)

Frank San Nicolas

A fallen tree blocks the road in the Guam capital, Hagåtña, on Wednesday. (Photo: Guam Daily Post)

He said the storm was intensifying and warned of a “triple threat” of winds, torrential rains and life-threatening storm surge of up to 3 metres.

“The storm was moving at only 3kph, but had an eye 27km wide, meaning people at the typhoon’s centre could see calm conditions for over three hours and conclude, far too soon, that the worst is over,” Doll said.

“Folks may say, ‘Hey it’s over, we could go outside and start cleaning up. That is totally wrong.”

Guerrero urged residents to stay at home and remain calm, saying the National Guard is helping evacuate those living in low-lying areas.

“We are at the cross-hairs of Typhoon Mawar. Take action now, stay calm, stay informed and stay safe.”

The governor said they expected “considerable damage” including non-reinforced concrete walls being blown down, fuel storage tanks rupturing, overturned cars and uprooted trees that could cut off residential areas for days or weeks.

Guam, with a population of close to 171,000 people, is a key hub for the US with the Department of Defence controlling about a third of the island.

Guam lies about 6800km from New Zealand, and so far Typhoon Mawar poses no threat to Aotearoa.

But Rota, in the nearby US Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, is under a typhoon warning, Doll said.