Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the eastern seaboard of the Philippines early Friday, bringing heavy winds and pounding rains that authorities warned could unleash landslides and flash floods.
The typhoon landed at 4:40 a.m. local time, at the town of Guiuan. Philippine weather forecasters said Haiyan—locally called Yolanda—is the strongest tropical cyclone this year to hit the country—the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane. It hammered the coastal town in Eastern Samar province with winds of 235 kilometers an hour (146 miles an hour) and gusts of 270 kph. The storm is moving west at 39 kph, a faster clip than estimated. Its diameter also shrunk to 400 kilometers.
Pictured above, rescue efforts were hampered by storm debris.
It is the strongest to make landfall since Typhoon Ruth slammed into northern Luzon with sustained winds of 250 kph and gusts of 285 kph.
Heavy rains and strong winds are now battering several central Philippine provinces, including Bohol, which suffered a 7.2-magnitude earthquake last month. Southern provinces in the main island of Luzon are also under the highest storm alert, with winds exceeding 185 kph.
The Philippine weather bureau warned residents of low-lying and mountainous areas against possible flash floods and landslides, while those in coastal areas were alerted that storm surges could reach 7 meters (23 feet) in height.
Haiyan is expected to leave the Philippines by Saturday afternoon, heading toward Vietnam.
Airlines canceled flights that might be affected by the typhoon, while the coast guard reported that more than 2,000 passengers were stranded at ports in affected areas.
A man tried to salvage a sofa from his damaged home.
Late Thursday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III called for prayers ahead of the storm, which threatened to be more powerful than one in December that killed 1,146 people. “As always, no storm can bring down a united Filipino people to its knees,” President Aquino said in a nationally televised speech.
The typhoon comes just weeks after a massive earthquake hit the country’s central area, killing 222 people and destroying historic churches, bridges and roads.
The typhoon was expected to pass near the earthquake-ravaged areas, raising particular alarm for quake victims still living in shelters. They were moved Thursday to less-threatened areas.
A resident hung clothing out to dry amid fallen trees and debris in the village of Andap. The Philippines is hit by more than 20 powerful tropical storms a year, but this typhoon struck remote communities off the usual storm path that are not accustomed to such strong storms.
Women washed clothes in a devastated banana plantation. (Credits – The Wall Street Journal and Getty Images).
The Master of Disaster