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Typhoon Haiyan sweeps through Philippines heads to Vietnam, Laos

One of the most intense typhoons on record has whipped through the Philippines. The super storm, Typhoon Haiyan, is now headed over the South China Sea towards Laos and Vietnam.

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Super Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines on Friday, generating wind gusts of up to 379 kilometers (235.5 miles) per hour, according to the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Haiyan smashed into coastal communities on the central island of Samar, about 600 kilometers (370 miles) southeast of Manila, before dawn on Friday.

It then made its way across the central Philippines, tearing down phone and power lines and damaging homes and vital infrastructure.

At least three people were killed and seven injured, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council spokesman Reynaldo Balido said during a press conference at Manila's main army base.

However, the death toll was expected to rise as authorities were unable to immediately contact the worst affected areas due to a massive communications blackout.

More than 700,000 people have been evacuated from towns and villages in the storms path, according to the disaster management agency.

Hundreds of domestic and international flights have also been suspended.

Haiyan's wind strength made it one of the four most powerful typhoons ever recorded in the world according to Jeff Masters, the director of meteorology at US-based Weather Underground.

Haiyan is now expected to move toward the South China Sea over the weekend, toward Vietnam and Laos.

The typhoon is likely to be among the top five natural disasters for those two countries, Masters said.

An average of 20 major storms or typhoons hit the Philippines, each year as it is often the first major landmass for the storms after they build over the Pacific Ocean.

The Philippines suffered the world's strongest storm of 2012, when Typhoon Bopha left about 2,000 people dead or missing.

hc/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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