The world's most powerful typhoon this year has hit the Philippines. Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes before Typhoon Haiyan made landfall. Weather experts say to expect 'catastrophic damage.'
Businesses in the path of Typhoon Haiyan were told to close, schools shut down and fisherpeople ordered to stay in port on Friday as the most powerful storm this year smashed into the central Phillipines island of Samar, 600 kilometers (372 miles) southeast of the country's capital, Manila.
At least three people were killed and seven injured, national disaster agency spokesman Rey Balido said during a press conference at Manila's main army base.
After battering the southern tip of Samar island, the storm hit nearby Leyte island. "I think this is the strongest [typhoon] so far since the 1960s," Southern Leyte Governor Roger Mercado told ABS-CBN television. "This really is a wallop. All roads are impassable due to fallen trees."
As the super typhoon made landfall, the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center recorded winds of up to 314 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 379 kilometers per hour. A storm gains super typhoon status when winds reach speeds in excess of 240 kilometers per hour.
"There aren't too many buildings constructed that can withstand that kind of wind," said Jeff Masters, a former hurricane meteorologist and current director at the private firm Weather Underground.
The typhoon, he said, was set to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall, but was not expected to hit the capital, Manila.
"The wind damage should be the most extreme in Philippines history," Masters added.
More than 700,000 people have been evacuated from towns and villages in the storms path, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Hundreds of domestic and international flights have also been suspended.
President Benigno Aquino in a televised address on Thursday, just hours before the storm made landfall, said "we can minimize the effects of this typhoon if we help each other. Let us remain calm, especially in buying our primary needs, and in moving to safer places."
Aquino warned that areas within the front would experience severe flooding and devastating winds, while coastal areas would see waves of up to six meters (20 feet).
The typhoon is expected to move through the central Philippines region on Friday and Saturday, before moving toward the South China Sea over the weekend, when it is anticipated to head toward Vietnam.
Both Vietnam and Laos are now in the path of the typhoon, where it is likely to be among the top five natural disasters for those two countries, said Masters.
jlw,dr/jm (Reuters, APF, AP, dpa)