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Monday, 9 December, 2002, 10:41 GMT
Typhoon strikes Guam
Map of Super Typhoon Pongsona
The typhoon is predicted to move away north-east
President Bush has declared the American Pacific territory of Guam a disaster area, after it was struck by a typhoon on Sunday.

The director of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, Joe Allbaugh, said Guam would be given immediate help to recover from the devastation.

Typhoon Pongsona, with winds of up to 250 kilometres an hour [150 mph] caused extensive structural damage across the island.

Electricity, water and telephones were cut off, and flights and ferries were cancelled.

Six people were reported missing after Super Typhoon Pongsona struck on Sunday, according to local media sources.

By late on Sunday, the typhoon, packing winds of up to 250 kilometres an hour (155mph) had moved north to the Northern Mariana Islands.

Rota Island, in the Marianas chain, had reportedly lost contact with the outside world.

State of emergency

About 70,000 people live on the Northern Mariana Islands, with 1,500 living on Rota.

A satellite image of Super Typhoon Pongsona
The eye of the storm passed right over Guam

A spokesman for the governor of Guam, Carl Gutierrez, said there had been an explosion at oil facilities in Guam port and a floating dry dock had broken loose.

The governor had earlier declared a state of emergency.

About 2,300 people were staying in emergency shelters, said response activity co-ordinator Vince Leon Guerrero.

Reports spoke of boats and cars scattered across the main thoroughfare, and roads made impassable.

The US weather service on the island was unable to monitor the typhoon because the winds had smashed its equipment.

Vulnerable

A civil defence official said six men were unaccounted for in the area of the explosion but stressed there was still a great deal of confusion because of the debris, loss of power and heavy rain.

Image from Discovery
2001's Typhoon Pabuk from the space shuttle Discovery

Early forecasts had accurately predicted the 48km to 56km wide eye of the storm would pass directly over Guam.

The typhoon, which is producing waves of up to 10 metres, is predicted to continue on a northerly course towards the Japanese island of Iwo Jima but curve north-easterly away from populated areas.

The region is highly vulnerable to such super typhoons.

In August last year, Typhoon Pabuk caused widespread damage throughout Japan's main island of Honshu.

Two months later, one of the strongest storms ever recorded swept across the north Pacific largely unnoticed.

Super Typhoon Podul had sustained winds of 240km/h, gusting to 296km/h.

When Super Typhoon Paka hit Guam in 1997, the Andersen Air Force Base reportedly logged one of the world's strongest gusts, of 380km/h, but its equipment was destroyed.

See also:

02 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
02 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
15 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 Dec 97 | In Depth
18 Sep 00 | Science/Nature
Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.


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