With 25 million people in its path, one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever observed, Super Typhoon Haiyan, made landfall Friday morning in the Philippines, the country’s weather service reported.
At least three people, including a 1-year-old, were killed. The infant and another person were hit by tornado debris in Cotabato province, the country’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said.
In Cebu, a woman died when she was hit by a falling coconut tree, according to the provincial government of Cebu.
Tens of thousands of people in vulnerable areas of the central Philippines were evacuated earlier as the monster storm spun toward the islands.
With sustained winds of 315 kph (195 mph) and gusts as strong as 380 kph (235 mph), Haiyan was likely the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall anywhere in the world in recorded history. It will take further analysis after the storm passes to determine exactly if it is a record.
Its wind strength makes it equivalent to an exceptionally strong Category 5 hurricane. A “super typhoon” has surface winds that sustain speeds of more than 240 kph (150 mph) for at least a minute, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Haiyan will move over the many islands of the central Philippines during Friday and part of Saturday before exiting into the South China Sea. The storm will weaken slightly as it crosses land, but forecasters with the Philippine weather agency, Pagasa, predict that it will maintain super-typhoon intensity throughout its passage of the islands.
The storm, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, is so large in diameter that clouds from it are affecting two-thirds of the country, which stretcges over 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles).
The provincial governor of Southern Leyte, Roger Mercado, said more than 30,000 people had evacuated their homes.
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.
Earthquake survivors vulnerable
As it moves across heavily populated areas of the central Philippines, Haiyan’s high winds and torrential rain are expected to affect more than 25 million people. The storm system had a diameter of about 800 kilometers (500 miles) as of Friday.
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 about 350,000, according to authorities.
Beach resort threatened
Another island in the storm’s likely trajectory is the popular beach resort of Boracay. Some tourists there were cutting their vacations short to get away from the possible danger.
Ross Evans, an aviation professional from Florida, said there was “a definite urgency and panic” among the long lines of holidaymakers waiting for boats to get off Boracay on Thursday.
Speaking by phone before his flight to Manila took off, he said he felt “horrible” for those who may end up stuck in the storm’s path.
Evans said he and his travel companions, who are leaving the Philippines two days earlier than planned, “feel very fortunate to have the ability to make arrangements to be safe.”
Situated near an area of the Pacific Ocean where tropical cyclones form, the Philippines regularly suffers severe storm damage.
An average of 20 typhoons hit the archipelagic nation every year, and several of those cause serious damage.
In December, Typhoon Bopha wreaked widespread devastation on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. The storm, the most powerful to hit the country that year, is estimated to have killed as many as 1,900 people.
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