World's strongest typhoon swirls towards Philippines

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MANILA: The world’s most powerful typhoon this year gained strength on Thursday as it swirled towards the Philippines, forcing mass evacuations across a vast swathe of the disaster-weary nation.

Authorities warned more than 12 million people were at risk from Typhoon  Haiyan, which was generating wind gusts exceeding 330 kilometres (200 miles) an
hour and set to hit on Friday morning. 
 
“This is a very dangerous typhoon, local officials know where the  vulnerable areas are and have given instructions on evacuations,” state weather  forecaster Glaiza Escullar told AFP.
 
“There are not too many mountains on its path to deflect the force of  impact, making it more dangerous.”    Haiyan was expected make landfall on Samar island, about 600 kilometres  southeast of Manila, then cut across the central and southern Philippines  before exiting into the South China Sea late on Saturday.
 
Escullar said Haiyan, which was advancing with a giant, 600-kilometre  front, was expected to hit areas still recovering from a devastating 2011 storm  and a 7.1-magnitude quake last month.
 
They include the central island of Bohol, the epicentre of the earthquake  that killed 222 people, where at least 5,000 survivors are still living in  tents while waiting for new homes.
 
“The provincial governor has ordered local disaster officials to ensure  that pre-emptive evacuations are done, both for those living in tents as well  as those in flood-prone areas,” Bohol provincial administrator Alfonso  Damalerio told AFP.
 
Other vulnerable areas were the port cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on  the southern island of Mindanao, where flash floods induced by Tropical Storm
Washi killed more than 1,000 people in December 2011.
 
Authorities said evacuations were taking place in many other towns and  villages in Haiyan’s path, while schools were closed, ferry services suspended  and fishermen ordered to secure their vessels.
 
Cebu Pacific said it had cancelled 110 domestic flights and four  international ones between Thursday and Saturday because of the storm.
 
Haiyan had maximum sustained winds on Thursday afternoon of 278 kilometres  an hour, and gusts of 333 kilometres an hour, according to the US Navy’s Joint  Typhoon Warning Centre.
 
This would make it the world’s strongest typhoon this year, according to  David Michael Padua, a meteorologist with the Weather Philippines Foundation, a  storm monitoring organisation that runs the www.weather.com.ph website.
 
The Philippines is battered by an average of 20 major storms or typhoons  each year, many of them deadly, but scientists have said climate change may be  increasing their ferocity and frequency.
 
The Philippines endured the world’s strongest storm of 2012, when Typhoon  Bopha left about 2,000 people dead or missing on Mindanao island in December.
 
The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System, jointly run by the  United Nations and the European Commission, said nearly 16 million people,  including more than 12 million from the Philippines, were at risk from Haiyan.
 
The others were in Laos and Vietnam, which are forecast to be hit on  Sunday, it said on its website.
 
“Haiyan can have a high humanitarian impact,” it said. AFP

Residents of Legazpi city in Albay province, south of Manila, are evacuated on November 7, 2013 ahead of a super typhoon that was strengthening in the Pacific Ocean. Authorities warned Typhoon Haiyan, with wind gusts exceeding 330 kilometres (200 miles) an hour, could cause major damage across a vast area of the central and southern Philippines when it makes landfall on November 8. AFP PHOTO / CHARISM Z. SAYAT

Residents of Legazpi city in Albay province, south of Manila, are evacuated on November 7, 2013 ahead of a super typhoon that was strengthening in the Pacific Ocean. Authorities warned Typhoon Haiyan, with wind gusts exceeding 330 kilometres (200 miles) an hour, could cause major damage across a vast area of the central and southern Philippines when it makes landfall on November 8. AFP PHOTO / CHARISM Z. SAYAT

This image provided by the U.S. Naval Research Lab shows Typhoon Haiyan taken by the NEXSAT satellite Thursday Nov. 7, 2013 at 2:30 a.m. EDT. Gorvernment forecasters said Thursday that Typhoon Haiyan was packing sustained winds of 215 kilometers (134 miles) per hour and ferocious gusts of 250 kph (155 mph) and could pick up strength over the Pacific Ocean before it slams into the eastern Philippine province of Eastern Samar on Friday. (AP Photo/US Naval Research Lab)


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