With alarms sounded and initial preparations having started as early as Sunday, authorities are hopeful of a zero casualty scenario as typhoon Mangkhut, with local name Ompong, sweeps through the Philippine's northern area.
Philippine officials have begun evacuating thousands from the direct path of the most powerful typhoon this year, closing schools and readying bulldozers for landslides.
Mangkhut - stronger than Hurricane Florence, which is now lashing the US East Coast - is expected to make landfall on the Philippines island of Luzon island early on Saturday.
- Its wind gusts are equivalent to a Category 5 Hurricane. Mangkhut is now a Cat 5 Typhoon packing winds of 285 kmph. (Link goes to YouTube page of Space Videos).
However, after striking Philippines, it is expected to weaken and will cross over to China Sea as a Cat 3 Typhoon.
"We're anxious for the 10 million people in the Philippines living in the path of this destructive storm, including those who have been displaced several times due to the monsoon rains last July and August", Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippines Red Cross, said in a statement.
The typhoon is approaching at the start of the rice and corn harvesting season in Cagayan, a major agricultural producer, and farmers were scrambling to save what they could of their crops, Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said.
Officials warned that Super Typhoon Mangkhut carried the intensity of Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, which killed more than 6,000 people, majority in a storm surge.
Despite uncertainty about its subsequent track and its distance from Hong Kong, Mangkhut's huge radius will pose a threat to a long stretch of coast, including that of the city.
Hurricane Florence stalks US East Coast
A wind pattern that allows a storm to get strong and stay strong. "The best safety plan is preparation and common sense". The National Hurricane Center warned that Florence was forecast to linger over the Carolinas once it reaches shore.
The storm further picked up speed and was about 340km east of the Philippines by late afternoon. Officials said 4 million people will likely be exposed to the storm's most damaging effects.
It was tracked on Friday about 250 miles away in the Pacific with sustained winds of 127mph and gusts of up to 158 mph, Philippine forecasters said.
Northern Luzon is also less densely populated.
The city's history of death and destruction from typhoons is reason enough for extensive official safety checks and contingency plans for Sunday, and grave warnings to the public on necessary precautions to be taken for their own and others' safety. That seemed likely to spare the island, which previous projections had put in the path of the storm. It is expected to strike the nation later in the night itself over the extreme northern parts of Philippines, possibly over Luzon.
"The pre-emptive evacuation is going on in our coastal municipalities, the villages that are prone to storm surge", Cagayan province spokesperson Rogelio Sending told AFP.
"We have people in those areas who say that as of now it remains sunny - but let us not be complacent", he said, recalling how before Haiyan "it was sunny, but the following day it was a deluge". This is no doubt because the word mangkhut is a Thai word referring to the tropical mangosteen fruit. Its rain band was 900 kilometres wide, 50% bigger than Haiyan's.
UNICEF said it has prepositioned emergency supplies for about 12,500 families.
"We're anxious for the 10 million people in the Philippines living in the path of this destructive storm, including those who have been displaced several times due to monsoon rains last July and August", he said.