Satellite image of Typhoon "Yolanda" at 4:30 a.m., 08 November 2013. Image from PAGASA
MANILA (UPDATE) – Typhoon "Yolanda" (international name Haiyan) has made landfall in Eastern Visayas, threatening areas in its path, state weather bureau PAGASA said.
PAGASA said Yolanda made landfall over Guiuan, Eastern Samar at 4:40 a.m. It made a second landfall over Tolosa, Leyte at 7 a.m.
Yolanda was packing maximum sustained winds of 235 kilometers per hour near the center and gusts of up to 275 kph.
In Tacloban City, Leyte, a city very near the site where the typhoon first made landfall, flood water quickly rose. Video footage showed debris on the road being swept by flood waters.
Visibility was also poor due to the sheer strength of the typhoon's wind.
More areas have been placed under public storm warning signal no. 4, where winds of at least 185 kph may be felt in at least 12 hours.
PAGASA said areas under signal no. 4 are Masbate, Ticao Island, Southern Sorsogon, Romblon, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Samar, Leyte, Southern Leyte , Biliran , Northern Cebu, Cebu City, Bantayan, Camotes Island, Northern Negros Occidental, Capiz, Aklan, Antique, Iloilo, and Guimaras.
Under signal no. 3 are Burias Island, Albay, Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Calamian Group of Islands, the rest of Sorsogon, the rest of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, the rest of Cebu, Bohol, Surigao del Norte, and Siargao Island.
Catanduanes, Camarines Sur, Southern Quezon, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Metro Manila, Cavite, Bataan, Lubang Island, Siquijor , Northern Palawan , Puerto Princesa, Camiguin, Surigao Del Sur, and Agusan Del Norte have been placed under signal no. 2.
Meanwhile, under signal no. 1 are Camarines Norte, rest of Quezon , Polilio Island, Bulacan, Pampanga, Zambales, Misamis Oriental, and Agusan del Sur.
Forecast track of Typhoon "Yolanda" as of 2 a.m., 08 November 2013. Image from PAGASA
PAGASA said Yolanda is forecast to move west northwest at 39 kph. After hitting Guiuan, it is expected to traverse the provinces of Biliran, the northern tip of Cebu, Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, Romblon, Semirara Island, southern part of Mindoro and then Busuanga.
Yolanda is expected to exit Philippine landmass on Saturday morning, moving towards the West Philippine Sea.
An estimated rainfall amount of 10 to 30 millimeters per hour (heavy - intense) is expected within the typhoon's 400-km diameter.
Sea travel is risky over the seaboards of Northern Luzon and the eastern seaboard of Central Luzon.
Residents in low lying and mountainous areas under signal nos. 4, 3 and 2 are alerted against possible flash floods and landslides. Likewise, those living in coastal areas under signal nos. 4, 3 and 2 are alerted against storm surges which may produce waves with height of at least 7 meters.
Storm surge warning
The Department of Science and Technology's Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) said areas in the path of the typhoon could experience tidal and storm-induced waves that could reach as high as 17 feet.
Project NOAH said Ormoc, Leyte could experience waves as high as 5.2 meters (17 feet), with its peak occurring at 2 p.m. today.
Other areas that will see seawater rise above more than 4 meters (13 feet) because of typhoon Yolanda include Matarinao Bay, Eastern Samar (4.7 meters); Port Pusgo, Quezon (4.6 meters); Santa Cruz Harbor, Quezon (4.3 meters); Poro Island, Biliran (4.3 meters); Banate, Iloilo (4.1 meters); and Port Barton, Palawan (4 meters).
An estimated 17 million people are forecast to be affected by cyclone-strength winds brought by the typhoon.
The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS), a cooperation framework between the United Nations, the European Commission and disaster managers worldwide to improve alerts, said 14.2 million people may be affected by Category 1 (120 kilometers per hour) wind speeds.
In an advisory issued at 5 a.m. on Friday (Manila time), GDACS said Yolanda was already packing 315 kph maximum sustained winds.
President Benigno Aquino had on Thursday warned his countrymen to make all possible preparations for Haiyan, which was packing monster wind gusts of nearly 380 kilometers (235 miles) an hour as it approached the Philippines.
"To our local officials, your constituents are facing a serious peril. Let us do all we can while (Haiyan) has not yet hit land," Aquino said in a nationally televised address.
"We can minimize 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."
Aquino warned areas within the expected 600-kilometer typhoon front would be exposed to severe flooding as well as devastating winds, while coastal areas may see waves six meters (20 feet) high.
More than 125,000 people in the most vulnerable areas had been moved to evacuation centers before Haiyan hit, according to the civil defense office, and millions of others braced for the typhoon in their homes.
Authorities said schools in the storm's path were closed, ferry services suspended and fishermen ordered to secure their vessels.
In the capital of Manila, which was not directly in the typhoon's path but still expected to feel some of its impact, many schools were also closed.
Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and other carriers announced the suspension of hundreds of flights, mostly domestic but also some international.
Cajulis said Haiyan was travelling quickly, at 39 kilometers an hour, and would travel across the country towards the South China Sea throughout Friday.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
State weather forecaster Glaize Escullar said on Thursday Haiyan was expected to hit areas still recovering from a devastating storm in 2011 and from a 7.1-magnitude quake last month.
They include the central island of Bohol, the epicenter of the earthquake that killed 222 people, where at least 5,000 survivors are still living in tents while waiting for new homes.
Other vulnerable areas are 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.
Haiyan had maximum sustained winds on Friday morning of 315 kilometers an hour, and gusts of 379 kilometers an hour, according to the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
The Philippine state weather service, which typically gives lower wind readings, said the maximum gusts on Friday morning were 275 kilometers an hour.
But even that reading would still make Haiyan 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 wind speeds of this extremely catastrophic cyclone has increased further to 315 km/hr, making it the most powerful typhoon ever observed since Super Typhoon Tip of 1979," Padua said.
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. – with Agence France-Presse