Zee Media Bureau
Manila: At least four three people died and seven others were injured as super typhoon Haiyan hit vast areas of the central Philippines on Friday.
Rey Balido, spokesman for the Philippines` National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said they have so far accounted for three deaths, two from electrocution and one by lightning, and seven others injured in the typhoon, which packed a sustained wind of up to 235 kph, reports Xinhua.
Balido said 145,649 families from Mimapora, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Northern Mindana and Caraga regions have gone to 581 evacuation centres ahead of the landfall of the typhoon. Many parts of the affected areas are without electricity, he added.
NDRRMC executive director Eduardo del Rosario said the effect of Haiyan was "very, very low" compared to Typhoon Ruping, which hit the same areas in 1990, leaving 508 people dead, 1,278 injured and 246 others missing.
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Nevertheless, del Rosario said they are having difficulty contacting field units due to downed communication lines.
The strongest typhoon this year slammed into the Philippines, setting off landslides, knocking out power in several provinces and cutting communications in the country`s central region of island provinces.
Telephone lines appeared down as it was difficult to get through to the landfall site 650 kilometers (405 miles) southeast of Manila where Typhoon Haiyan — one of the strongest typhoons ever — slammed into the southern tip of Samar island before barreling on to Leyte Island.
Close to 720,000 people had been evacuated from towns and villages in the typhoon`s path across the central Philippines, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said. Among them were thousands of residents of Bohol who had been camped in tents and other makeshift shelters after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit the island province last month.
Southern Leyte governor Roger Mercado said 31,000 people were evacuated in his landslide-prone mountainous province before the super typhoon struck, knocking out power, setting off small landslides that blocked roads in rural areas, uprooting trees and ripping roofs off houses around his residence.
Weather officials said that Haiyan had sustained winds at 235 kilometers (147 miles) per hour, with gusts of 275 kph (170 mph) when it made landfall. That makes it the strongest typhoon this year, said Aldczar Aurelio of the government`s weather bureau.
The dense clouds and heavy rains made the day seem almost as dark as night, he said.
President Benigno Aquino III assured the public of war-like preparations, with three C-130 air force cargo planes and 32 military helicopters and planes on standby, along with 20 navy ships.
The typhoon — the 24th serious storm to hit the Philippines this year — is forecast to blow toward the South China Sea on Saturday, heading toward Vietnam.
The world`s strongest recorded typhoon, cyclone or hurricane to make landfall was Hurricane Camille in 1969, which hit the southern US state of Mississippi with 305 kph (190 mph) winds, said Weather Underground`s Masters.
An average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year.
Last year, Typhoon Bopha flattened three towns on Mindanao, killed 1,100 people and caused damages of more than USD 1 billion.
Haiyan is the second category 5 typhoon to hit the Philippines this year after Typhoon Usagi in September.