HAGATNA, Guam – A super typhoon blamed for the deaths of at least four people on islands in the western Pacific Ocean has moved into the open sea and is expected to significantly weaken before reaching the Philippines later this weekend.
Paul Stanko of the National Weather Service said super Typhoon Maysak packed winds of 100 mph when it passed north of the Yap State atolls of Ulithi and Fais in the Federated States of Micronesia early Wednesday. There have been no reports of casualties in Yap.
"When the typhoon passed this morning winds were still strong for people to go out and government officials to conduct assessments," Andrew Yatilman, director of Yap State Office of Environment and Emergency Management, told The Associated Press by telephone.
Wilfred Robert, the chief of staff for the Chuuk State governor, and member of the Chuuk Emergency Coordinating Central Committee, said four deaths, a child and three adults, were reported as casualties of Maysak. Earlier Wednesday, Micronesia public information officer Marz Akapito reported the preliminary death toll of five in a radio broadcast, according to the Pacific Daily News newspaper in Guam.
Chuuk State is comprised of the main island, Weno, 15 neighboring islands, and 24 outer, flat coral atolls. Robert said two of the deaths were from the main island of Weno, and one each from Faichuk and Upper Murtlock Islands.
Robert said there were minor injuries reported, but none required hospitalization. He said damage was still being assessed by boat in lagoon islands, which are 7 to 30 miles away from the capital of Chuuk State, which is in Weno island. It could take until the weekend to complete a full report.
"Many breadfruit and mango trees were down, fallen," Robert said. "Even taro patches, which are the main source of food, is in danger. "People in remote villages and neighboring islands will need food."
Robert predicted that food could run out by Friday for many islanders in the lagoon islands.
The typhoon, which was upgraded to a super typhoon Tuesday afternoon when it passed Yap, moved into the open sea and is headed toward the Philippines.
In Manila, the weather bureau reported that Maysak's sustained winds weakened Wednesday from 134 mph to 118 mph and could still weaken as it approaches the country's eastern coast. The typhoon, currently with gusts of nearly 140 mph was still 723 miles away from the eastern Philippines and may still be dangerously powerful when it hits land, likely on Saturday or Sunday if it doesn't change course, Filipino forecasters said.
The approaching typhoon has threatened summer holiday plans in the largely Roman Catholic Philippines, where large number of Filipinos would travel to home provinces and resorts during the Lenten holidays starting Thursday.
The 120,000-strong military went on full security alert Wednesday in the northern Philippines, which is expected to be struck by Maysak, and ordered its forces to be ready to respond to contingencies.