Monster storm roars into Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan

Mai Zamora from the charity World Vision said “galvanised iron sheets were flying just like kites”

Typhoon Haiyan is battering the central Philippines with sustained winds of up to 320 km/h (199mph).

Meteorologists say that if initial estimates based on satellite images are borne out, it could be the most powerful storm ever to make landfall.

The storm has forced millions to seek shelter in 20 provinces. At least three people have died, but it may take days before the full damage is known.

The region was already struggling after a powerful earthquake last month.

The authorities have warned that more than 12 million people are at risk from the storm – the equivalent of a category five hurricane.

It has so far lashed central islands including Leyte and Samar, and the northern tip of Cebu – including Cebu city, the country’s second largest with a population of 2.5 million.

Two people were electrocuted in storm-related incidents and another was killed after being struck by lightning, according to officials. Seven others were reported injured.

Reports say power and communications have been almost completely lost in Samar, Leyte and Bohol.

Save the Children Philippines director Anna Lindenfors predicted a high casualty rate.

“We expect the level of destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan to be extensive and devastating, and sadly we fear that many lives will be lost,” she said in a statement.

Former BBC Manila correspondent Kate McGeown says that while reports are now coming in from some of the affected cities, there is still very little information from the countryside in large areas of the Visayas region such as Negros and Iloilo, and the island of Mindoro.

The storm – known locally as Yolanda – was not expected to directly hit the capital Manila, more than 600km (370 miles) to the north.

Mai Zamora, from the charity World Vision, in Cebu, told the BBC: “The wind here is whistling. It’s so strong and the heavy downpours are continuing.”

“We’ve been hearing from my colleagues in [the city of] Tacloban that they’ve seen galvanised iron sheets flying just like kites.”

“It was frightening. The wind was so strong, it was so loud, like a screaming woman. I could see trees being toppled down,” Liwayway Sabuco, a saleswoman from Catbalogan, a major city on Samar, told AFP news agency.

Schools and offices closed, while ferry services and local flights were suspended. Hospitals and soldiers are on stand-by for rescue and relief operations.

Damage in  Leyte province

The BBC’s Jon Donnison said up to a million people have been forced to leave their homes

The governor of the Southern Leyte province, Roger Mercado, tweeted on Friday morning that fallen trees were blocking roads, hampering the emergency effort.

Protestant pastor Diosdado Casera in Surigao City in north-east Mindanao said the city had missed the worst of the storm but there was a lot of damage.

“The storm was very strong – although Surigao City was not directly hit we experienced its fury early this morning,” he said.

“The big buildings made of concrete were fine, but the houses made of wood and shingles and plywood have suffered a lot of damage, mainly to their roof.”

A spokesperson for the British Red Cross, Nichola Jones, who is in Tagbilaran in Bohol, says the typhoon had cut power and torn off roof tiles, but was “not too bad”.

MapA satellite image as the typhoon approached the Philippines on Friday

Residents living near the slopes of Mayon volcano are evacuated to public schools by police in anticipation of the powerful typhoon Haiyan, 7 NovemberTens of thousands of people in low-lying areas were evacuated

Christmas tree felled in Cebu provinceA Christmas tree was felled by the storm in Cebu province

Filipino workers bring down a giant billboard along a busy highway as they prepare for Typhoon Haiyan in suburban Makati, south of Manila, Philippines, 7 Nov 2013Billboards were taken down in Makati, near Manila, ahead of the storm

House engulfed by typhoon in Albay provinceThis house in Albay province was destroyed by wind and water

Fallen tree in Cebu cityThe storm is causing major damage in Cebu city

“But I think to the North – that’s the area that has borne the brunt. Those were the areas worst hit by the earthquake last month.”

In the worst-hit areas of Samar and Leyte, she says there are reports of collapsed buildings, including a hotel.

“In Cebu they have had quite a battering and I spoke to our colleagues and they’ve had quite strong winds and are locked down in their hotels. They are waiting to see what the situation is.”

Jeff Masters, meteorology director at the private firm Weather Underground, said in a blog post that the damage from Haiyan’s winds must have been “perhaps the greatest wind damage any city on Earth has endured from a tropical cyclone in the past century”.

Relief packages

Typhoon Haiyan made landfall over Guiuan at 04:40 local time (20:40 GMT on 7 November), with gusts of up to 275 km/h (170 mph), the Philippines’ weather service said.

BBC's Jay Wynne

Jay Wynne tracks the path of Typhoon Haiyan

The US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Centre, which typically gives higher readings as they are based on a shorter period of time, said shortly before Haiyan’s landfall that its maximum sustained winds were up to 314 km/h (195 mph), with gusts up to 379 km/h (235 mph).

It said the typhoon was set to exit the Philippines after 21:00 local time.

Our correspondent says that, while the country is better prepared than for previous storms, it is not clear whether even buildings being used as storm shelters can withstand these winds.

Waves as high as 15m (45ft) could be seen around the coast, and there was 400mm (15.75 inches) of rain in places.

In its path are areas already struggling to recover from a deadly 7.3-magnitude earthquake last month, including the worst-hit island of Bohol where about 5,000 people are still living in tents.

Meteorologists in the Philippines warned that Haiyan could be as devastating as Typhoon Bopha in 2012, which devastated parts of the southern Philippines and left at least 1,000 people dead.

It is the 25th tropical storm to enter Philippine territory this year.

Typhoon map

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