Typhoon Mangkhut roared toward densely populated Hong Kong and southern China yesterday after ravaging across the northern Philippines with ferocious winds and heavy rain that left at least 28 dead in landslides and collapsed houses.

The strongest storm so far this year in the world sliced across the northern tip of Luzon Island on Saturday, a breadbasket that is also a region of flood-prone rice plains and mountain provinces with a history of deadly landslides. More than 5 million people were in the path of the typhoon, equivalent to a Category 5 Atlantic hurricane when it hit the Philippines. Yesterday, it packed sustained winds of 155km/h and gusts of 190km/h.

Hong Kong and southern China issued the highest storm signals. The Guangdong provincial office in charge of flood prevention said yesterday that nearly half a million people had been evacuated from seven cities.

The Hong Kong Observatory said although Mangkhut had weakened slightly, its extensive, intense rain bands were bringing heavy downfall and frequent squalls.

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A storm surge of about 3 metres or higher is expected at the city's waterfront Victoria Harbour, the observatory said, appealing to the public to avoid the shoreline.

A resident walks beside a toppled basketball court after Typhoon Mangkhut barreled across Tuguegarao city, Cagayan province, northeastern Philippines. Photo / AP
A resident walks beside a toppled basketball court after Typhoon Mangkhut barreled across Tuguegarao city, Cagayan province, northeastern Philippines. Photo / AP

Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde said 20 had died in the Cordillera mountain region, four in nearby Nueva Vizcaya province and another outside of the two regions.

Three more deaths were reported in northeastern Cagayan province, where the typhoon made landfall.

About 87,000 people had evacuated from high-risk areas of the Philippines.

Francis Tolentino, an adviser to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, and other officials advised them not to return home until the lingering danger had passed.

In Hong Kong, Security Minister John Lee Ka-chiu urged residents to prepare for the worst.

In nearby Fujian province in China, 51,000 people were evacuated from fishing boats and around 11,000 vessels returned to port.

- AP