PHILIPPINES – Thousands of people in vulnerable areas of the Philippines are being relocated as the strongest storm on the planet so far this year spins toward the country. With sustained winds of 305 kph (190 mph) and gusts as strong as 370 kph (230 mph), Super Typhoon Haiyan was churning across the Western Pacific toward the central Philippines as one of the most intense tropical cyclones ever recorded.
Its wind strength makes it equivalent to an exceptionally strong Category 5 hurricane. The storm, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, is expected to still be a super typhoon, with winds in excess of 240 kph (149 mph), when it makes landfall Friday morning in the region of Eastern Visayas.
The storm is so large in diameter that clouds from it are affecting two-thirds of the country. Authorities in the region had moved more than 3,800 people to evacuation centers by late Thursday, Maj. Reynaldo Balido of the Philippine Office of Civil Defense said. Most of those relocated live in Tacloban City, which sits on the coast of the island of Leyte and has a population of more than 200,000.
In a speech Thursday, President Benigno S. Aquino III warned residents of the “calamity our countrymen will face in these coming days. Let me repeat myself: This is a very real danger, and we can mitigate and lessen its effects if we use the information available to prepare,” he said.
The government has three C-130 cargo aircraft ready to respond, as well as 32 planes and helicopters from the air force, the president said. Officials have placed relief supplies in the areas that are expected to get hit, Aquino said. “The effects of this storm can be eased through solidarity,” he said.
As it moves across heavily populated areas of the central Philippines, Haiyan’s high winds and torrential rain are expected to affect millions of people. The storm system had a diameter of about 800 kilometers (500 miles) as of early Thursday afternoon. The Philippine weather agency, Pagasa, warned more than 30 provinces across the country Thursday to be prepared for possible flash floods and landslides.
Schools in many areas canceled classes, emergency services were put on high alert, and airlines canceled flights. Some of the most vulnerable people are those living in makeshift shelters on the central Philippine island of Bohol. Last month, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit the island, which lies close to the typhoon’s predicted path. The quake killed at least 222 people, injured nearly 1,000 and displaced around 350,000, according to authorities.
Philippine president asks for prayer: Philippine President Benigno Aquino III called for prayers Thursday night as a super typhoon barreled toward the Southeast Asian country, threatening to be more powerful than a storm last December that killed 1,146 people.
“As always, no storm can bring down a united Filipino people to its knees,” President Aquino said in a nationally televised speech. “The effects of this storm can be eased through solidarity. Let us exhibit calm, especially as we buy our primary necessities, and as we evacuate to safer areas,” he added.
Weather forecasters predicted that Typhoon Haiyan could pack winds of 215 kilometers per hour—powerful enough to spawn storm surges, topple houses and uproot trees—and deliver heavy rains that could overwhelm rivers and cause flash floods and landslides. The Japanese Meteorological Agency classifies Haiyan’s intensity as violent and forecasts central winds hitting 232 kilometers per hour by the time it makes landfall early Friday.
The typhoon was coming just weeks after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit the country’s central area, killing 222 people and destroying historic churches, bridges and roads. The typhoon was expected to pass near the earthquake-ravages areas, raising particular alarm for quake victims still living in shelters.
They were moved on Thursday to areas expected to be safer. The storm was forecast to hammer the country’s eastern seaboard. On Thursday, it was moving westward at 33 kilometers per hour, with a diameter of 600 kilometers.
New Zealand Herald
One of the most intense typhoons ever recorded has torn into the Philippines, triggering flash floods and ripping down buildings as millions of people huddle indoors.
The strength of the wind made it one of the four most powerful typhoons ever recorded in the world, and the most powerful to have made landfall, according to Jeff Masters, the director of meteorology at US-based Weather Underground.
Masters said he expected the damage in Guiuan, the fishing town of about 40,000 people that was the first to be hit after Haiyan swept in from the Pacific Ocean, to be “catastrophic”.
“Perhaps the greatest wind damage any city on Earth has endured from a tropical cyclone in the past century,” Masters wrote on his blog for the weather monitoring website.
Communication with Guiuan was cut off immediately after Haiyan hit, and the civil defence office says it’s too early to give an assessment of the damage there.
But in Tacloban, a nearby city of more than 200,000 people, streets are flooded and some buildings have been torn down, according to footage broadcast on ABS CBN television.
Twitter users have begun posting photos of the damage.
— Ritchel M. Deleon (@kisseshug04) November 8, 2013
Haiyan had maximum sustained winds on Friday morning of 315km/h, and gusts of 379km/h, according to the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Centre.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Thursday warned his countrymen to make all possible preparations for Haiyan.
“To our local officials, your constituents are facing a serious peril. Let us do all we can while (Haiyan) has not yet hit land,” Aquino said in a nationally televised address.
Aquino warned areas within the 600km typhoon front would be exposed to severe flooding as well as devastating winds, while coastal areas may see waves six metres high.
More than 125,000 people in the most vulnerable areas had been moved to evacuation centres before Haiyan hit, according to the civil defence office, and millions of others braced for the typhoon in their homes.
Authorities said schools in the storm’s path were closed, ferry services suspended and fishermen ordered to secure their vessels.
In the capital of Manila, which was on the northern edge of the typhoon’s path, many schools were closed amid forecasts of heavy rain.
Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and other carriers announced the suspension of hundreds of flights, mostly domestic but also some international.