Super Typhoon Yutu has crossed over the US commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands as the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, making it the strongest storm to hit any part of the US this year, the National Weather Service says.
Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marina Islands' delegate to US Congress, said the territory will need significant help to recover from the storm, which he said injured several people.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Saipan, Sablan said he has heard reports of injuries and that people are waiting at the island's hospital to be treated. He could not provide further details or official estimates of casualties.
"There's a lot of damage and destruction," Sablan said. "It's like a small war just passed through."
Nearly 200 federal emergency workers were in the Marianas to assist.
Maximum sustained winds of 290km/h were recorded around the eye of the storm, which passed over Tinian and Saipan early on Thursday.
Tinian suffered a direct hit. Saipan and Tinian will be unrecognisable. Fallen trees could isolate residents, and power and water outages could last weeks, the weather service warned.
Recovery efforts on Saipan and Tinian will be slow. All ports were closed, and flights into the Northern Marianas were cancelled.
The Northern Marianas have a population of about 55,000 people.
Waves of six to 12 metres were expected around the eye of the storm, and flooding is likely, forecasters said.
A typhoon warning was in effect for Saipan, Tinian and Rota. A tropical storm warning was in place for Guam and other southern islands.
Australian Associated Press