Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of strongest storms ever, hits central Philippines

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 (CNN) — With 25 million people in its path, Super Typhoon Haiyan — one of the strongest storms recorded on the planet — smashed into the Philippines on Friday morning.

As the storm plowed across the cluster of islands in the heart of the country, casualties were reported, more than 100,000 people took shelter in evacuation centers and hundreds of flights were canceled.

The storm brought tremendously powerful winds roaring ashore as it made landfall in the province of Eastern Visayas, disrupting communications with a major city in its path.

With sustained winds of 315 kph (195 mph) and gusts as strong as 380 kph (235 mph), Haiyan was probably the strongest tropical cyclone to hit land anywhere in the world in recorded history. It will take further analysis after the storm passes to establish whether it is a record.

As the monster storm spun toward the Philippines on Thursday, President Benigno S. Aquino III warned the nation that it faced a “calamity.”

Category 5 strength

Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Yolanda, appeared to retain much of its terrifying force as it moved west over the country, with sustained winds of 295 kph, gusts as strong as 360 kph. Haiyan’s wind strength makes it equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane.

Video footage from on the ground in the Philippines showed howling winds bending palm trees and whipping debris down deserted streets.

Gov. Roger Mercado of Southern Leyte, a province in Eastern Visayas, said Friday morning that “all roads” were impassable because of fallen trees.

He said it was too soon to gauge the level of devastation caused by Haiyan.

“We don’t know the extent of the damage,” Mercaod said. “We are trying to estimate this. We are prepared, but this is really a wallop.”

The typhoon was forecast to churn across the central Philippines during Friday and part of Saturday before exiting into the South China Sea.

The storm is expected to weaken slightly as it moves across land, but forecasters predict that it will maintain super typhoon intensity throughout its passage over the islands.

A super typhoon has surface winds that sustain speeds of more than 240 kph for at least a minute, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Haiyan is so large in diameter that clouds from it are affecting two-thirds of the country, which stretches more than 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles). Tropical-storm-force winds are extending 240 kilometers from the typhoon’s center.

haiyan

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