Super Typhoon Yutu Path, Track Update: Northern Mariana Islands Slammed By Storm, Public Health Emergency Declared

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency on Thursday after Super Typhoon Yutu slammed into the Northern Mariana Islands. Yutu hit the islands, which are a United States territory, as a Category 5 storm on Wednesday.

Yutu brought winds of up to 180 mph when it swept through the area, hitting Tinian and Saipan. The storm destroyed more than 100 homes, the New York Times reported.

Yutu was moving west northwest on Thursday, according to The Weather Channel. Its forecasted path means the storm could threaten southern Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines next week.

"It remains too soon to be certain if Yutu will strike any of these locations, or if it will simply curl sharply northeastward out to sea," The Weather Channel said.

Yutu was expected to weaken as it moved westward, with winds decreasing to an expected 115 mph by Wednesday.

The public health emergency issued on Thursday allows for the government to direct emergency resources to the Northern Mariana Islands. The storm was the strongest super typhoon to pass Saipan and Tinian in modern recorded history, the Weather Channel reported.

Northern Mariana Islands emergency management special assistant Gerald J. Deleon called it "one of the worst storms" he had ever seen, according to WBUR. At least one person, an unidentified 44-year-old woman, was killed in the storm, TIME reported.

"We are working closely with territory health authorities, the local hospital and other healthcare facilities to save lives and protect health after this catastrophic storm," Azar said in a statement. "This declaration will help ensure that our fellow Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid have continuous access to the care they need."

Super Typhoon Yutu
Super Typhoon Yutu's path had the storm heading west northwest in the coming days. Joint Typhoon Warning CEnter