The US Pacific island of Guam was hit by Hurricane Mawar’s “devastating” winds overnight Wednesday into Thursday, causing flooding and widespread power outages.
Contacted by AFP by phone, a staff member of a hotel on the beach described “windows flying to pieces, the wind howling, trees snapping webs”.
“The lobby is filled with 30 centimeters of water,” said Casey, who works at the Dusit Thani Guam resort, which operates with a backup generator.
“I feel the walls shaking. The wind is so strong I can hear it whistling through the cracks in the doors.
While locals are used to the storms, “tourists are panicking about flooding in rooms caused by water seeping through broken windows,” he said.
The most outspoken people have taken refuge at the invitation of the authorities.
The hurricane, a Category 4 on the 5 magnitude scale, passed north of the island on Wednesday evening and was expected to weaken by Thursday afternoon.
But the destructive winds continued into the night, according to the US National Weather Service. The wind speed was 225 kmph.
Lou Leon Guerrero, the governor of the island of 170,000 people, located about 2,400 kilometers from the Philippine archipelago, had earlier called on residents to “seek shelter immediately”.
“I’m in a reinforced concrete house, my shutters are closed. I went outside briefly, but the wind is blowing incessantly with rain,” Peggy Merrill, a 46-year-old teacher who took refuge in the south of the island, told AFP.
“I am concerned about the safety of our people. This is the most powerful storm in the last 20 years,” Governor Guerrero warned.
The US Weather Service had warned of a “triple threat”, torrential rain, damaging winds and potentially deadly storm surges (sea level rise).
The hurricane’s arrival raised fears of coastal drowning events on Rota, another US island in the Mariana Islands archipelago.
The Guam Power Authority, the island’s power utility, warned it would wait until the winds subsided to begin operations to restore power for safety.
According to the company, only 1,000 houses out of a total of 52,000 houses have been supplied with electricity.
Nearly 22,000 U.S. service members and their families are based on the island of Guam, home to long-range bomber and nuclear attack submarines.
The island is home to America’s main fuel and ammunition reserves in the Pacific. Tourism is important there.
At the Hyatt Regency Guam, guests weathered the hurricane with philosophy. They were waiting in the lobby, company employee Ryan Rodillon told AFP.
“Many rooms are flooded, not because the windows are broken, but because water is coming in from the balconies,” he said.
About 60 flights scheduled to depart or arrive in Guam between Tuesday and Thursday have been canceled, AP Van Pat International Airport said.