Typhoon Haiyan wreaks havoc

2013-11-08 14:46
Residents stand along a sea wall as high waves pounded them amidst strong winds as Typhoon Haiyan hit the city of Legaspi. (Charism Sayat, AFP)

Residents stand along a sea wall as high waves pounded them amidst strong winds as Typhoon Haiyan hit the city of Legaspi. (Charism Sayat, AFP)

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Manila - One of the most intense typhoons on record whipped the Philippines on Friday, killing at least three people and terrifying millions as monster winds tore apart homes.

Super Typhoon Haiyan smashed into coastal communities on the central island of Samar, about 600km southeast of Manila, before dawn on Friday with maximum sustained winds of about 315km/hr.

"It was frightening. The wind was so strong; it was so loud, like a screaming woman. I could see trees being toppled down," said Liwayway Sabuco, a saleswoman from Catbalogan, a major city on Samar.

The government said three people had been confirmed killed and another man was missing after he fell off a gangplank in the central port of Cebu.

But the death toll was expected to rise, with authorities unable to immediately contact the worst affected areas and Haiyan only expected to leave the Philippines in the evening.

Haiyan generated wind gusts of 379km/h on Friday morning, according to the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre.

Masters said the previous record for the strongest typhoon to make landfall was Hurricane Camille, which hit Mississippi in the United States with sustained winds of 190km/h in 1969.

In Tacloban, a city of more than 200 000 people close to where Haiyan made landfall, corrugated iron sheets were ripped off roofs and floated with the wind before crashing into buildings, according to video footage taken by a resident.

Flash floods also turned Tacloban's streets into rivers, while a photo from an ABS-CBN television reporter showed six bamboo houses washed away along a beach more than 200km to the south.

Preparing for disaster

Authorities expressed initial confidence that the death toll from Haiyan would not climb dramatically, citing a massive effort starting two days before the typhoon hit to evacuate those in vulnerable areas.

More than 718 000 people had sought shelter in evacuation centres, 3 000 ferries had been locked down at ports and hundreds of flights were cancelled, according to the national disaster management council's spokesperson, Reynaldo Balido.

"In terms of damage, we cannot avoid that but the silver lining here is that the casualties are only three as of now," he said in Manila.

"It is possible that this will increase, but we don't think it will increase that much more unlike in previous typhoons. The people have learnt their lesson."

Another reason for optimism was that Haiyan did not bring extreme rains, which is typically the major cause of deaths for typhoons in the Philippines.

Nevertheless, Balido said disaster officials had yet to make contact with many cities and towns that were believed to have been badly damaged, and it was impossible to get a clear picture of the damage on Friday evening.

Haiyan is expected to exit the Philippines after 21:00 and into South China Sea, tracking towards Vietnam and Laos.

Read more on:    philippines  |  typhoon haiyan  |  natural disasters

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