Philippine authorities evacuated thousands of people, canceled flights and shut schools and businesses as Super Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Southeast Asian nation.
About 125,600 people in 22 provinces were evacuated, the disaster agency said today. Haiyan had maximum sustained winds of 235 kilometers (146 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 275 kilometers an hour when it struck the eastern province of Samar this morning, according to the nation’s weather bureau.
Haiyan is “the strongest tropical cyclone on record to make landfall,” said Jeff Masters, founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Using average estimates of the Philippine weather bureau and the Joint Typhoon Weather Center, Masters said the storm had winds of between 190 and 195 miles per hour at landfall.
More than 20 areas, mostly on the island group of Visayas, which suffered a 7.2-magnitude earthquake last month, were on the highest storm alert. President Benigno Aquino, in a televised address last night, warned of serious danger and said Haiyan may cause worse damage than storm Bopha, which killed more than 1,000 people in Mindanao in December.
Schools suspended all classes in 44 cities, the government said on its website. The nation’s financial markets are open today even as Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla said “there’s a need to closely monitor” the situation.
Haiyan may inundate rivers, create mudflows and cause storm surges as high as 6 meters (20 feet), Aquino said. Three air force cargo planes, two navy ships, as well as helicopters and relief boats are on standby, the president said.
Cebu Air Inc., the nation’s largest budget carrier, canceled 125 domestic flights and four international flights from today to Nov. 9, it said yesterday. Philippine Airlines Inc. canceled 26 local flights and three international flights today, it said on its Facebook account. About 2,000 passengers, 50 vessels and 557 rolling cargoes are now stranded in various seaports, the disaster agency said today.
China Banking Corp. suspended operations at 47 branches to ensure the safety of employees and clients, it said. The Bureau of Customs will suspend work from 3 p.m, while courts in the Philippine capital will be shut by noon.
The Philippines, battered by about 20 cyclones a year, was the nation most affected by natural disasters last year, with more than 2,000 people killed, according to the Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.
Typhoon Haiyan’s total economic impact may reach $14 billion, with the insured portion probably almost $2 billion, according to a report by Jonathan Adams, a senior analyst at Bloomberg Industries, citing Kinetic Analysis Corp.
Monsoon rains swamped more than half of the Manila region in August, causing at least 27 deaths and shutting offices and financial markets for two days.
Heavy rains from storms usually cause the highest death tolls on the Philippines, Masters said. Flooding may not be the worst threat with Haiyan because of the speed at which it’s moving, he said. Still, high winds and storm surges have the potential to cause catastrophic damage, he said.
“We’re swamped with calls for help,” Southern Leyte Governor Roger Mercado said in an interview over DZMM radio. Strong winds uprooted trees in the province, he said.
Visayan Electric Co. Inc., the second-largest electric utility in the country servicing Cebu province, said it stopped operations in its its franchise area for safety purposes. Bohol province, which relies on neighboring Leyte for electricity, is without power today, Herminigildo Gargar, a police officer, said by phone.
The Philippines government has provided 195 million pesos ($4.5 million) of relief supplies to be used for Samar and Leyte islands in the Visayas, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said in Manila yesterday.
The strongest tropical cyclone on record was Super Typhoon Nancy in 1961 with top winds of 215 miles per hour, Masters said. The strongest storm to hit land was Camille, which went ashore in Mississippi with winds near 195 mph, according to Masters.
Haiyan will head out to Philippine waters tonight after crossing land, with “heavy to intense” rainfall expected within its 400-kilometer radius, weather forecaster Aldczar Aurelio said in a televised briefing.
After crossing the Philippines, Haiyan is expected to approach Vietnam, according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency.