Manila — As the strongest storm on Earth this year swirls towards the Philippines, thousands have been evacuated and President Benigno S. Aquino III warned residents of the “calamity our countrymen will face in these coming days.”
Super Typhoon Haiyan, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, now has sustained winds of 305 kph (190 mph) and gusts as strong as 370 kph (230 mph) as it churned across the Western Pacific toward the central Philippines, making it one of the most intense tropical cyclones ever recorded.
The storm front is 600 kilometers wide (373 miles), and is so large in diameter that clouds from it are affecting two-thirds of the country.
Coastal areas may see waves six meters high, while areas within the entire 600-km front will be exposed to severe flooding and devastating winds, according to reports.
The storm is expected to make landfall on Samar island, 600 kilimeters southeast of Manila, then cut across the central and southern Philippines.
Aquino said in a nationally televised address, “To our local officials, your constituents are facing a serious peril. Let us do all we can while (Haiyan) has not yet hit land”.
“We can minimise the effects of this typhoon if we help each other. Let us remain calm, especially in buying our primary needs, and in moving to safer places.”
“Let me repeat myself: This is a very real danger, and we can mitigate and lessen its effects if we use the information available to prepare,” he said, according to reports.
News of the approaching storm has caused mass evacuations, flight cancellations, and school suspensions.
Among the most vulnerable people are the 5,000 still living in makeshift tents in Bohol from last month’s earthquake that killed 222.
The Philippines endured the world’s strongest storm of 2012 when Typhoon Bopha killed some 2,000 people on Mindanao island in December.