Thousands of residents have been evacuated from remote provinces of the Philippines as the country braces itself for wild weather. The storm could reach an intensity similar to 2013's devastating Typhoon Haiyan.
Millions of people in the Philippines are on high alert after being ordered to brace for a highly destructive typhoon that is expected to make landfall at around 11 p.m. Wednesday night local time (1500 UTC).
Super Typhoon Haima could be one of the strongest typhoons ever to hit the disaster-stricken country. It is forecast to impact remote communities in the far north which were hit by another deadly storm only days ago that left two people dead and at least three more missing.
Weather authorities are warning that Haima could bring gusts of up to 315 kilometers per hour (190 miles per hour) and storm surges of up to five meters (16 feet). It has been labeled a Category Five storm (on a scale of one to five) by Tropical Storm Risk.
'You are in danger'
Allen Tabel, chief of the interior ministry's disaster and information coordinating center, told Philippine residents on Wednesday: "It's not just heavy rain and strong winds that we are expecting. It's also floods, landslides and storm surges in coastal areas. Those in these areas, you are in danger. Find safer ground."
The areas in the typhoon's direct path are not heavily populated, and are well-drilled in preparing for the frequent storm activity they experience. However, with a weather band of 800 kilometers the storm could still impact a large proportion of the 10 million inhabitants on the main island of Luzon.
The more than 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines are often the first land mass to be affected by tropical storms that form over the Pacific Ocean. The exposed archipelago deals with about 20 major storms every year, many of them causing casualties.
'Second strongest' typhoon ever
Most prominent in the country's memory is Typhoon Haiyan, which killed over 6,000 people in 2013. More than 6 million people were displaced and the damage to land and infrastructure was unprecedented, destroying entire towns in heavily populated regions of the central Philippines.
Government weather specialist Benison Estareja told AFP news agency that Haima was expected to rank in the same league as Haiyan.
"If we talk about typhoons that entered the Philippines, this is the second strongest next to Haiyan," Estareja said.
"The difference is that [Haima] has a higher track and will hit an area where people are more used to strong storms."
The storm is expected to move on to Hong Kong and Southern China after passing over the Philippines.
tm/jm (AFP, dpa)