The most powerful cyclone in three decades battered the Philippines on Friday, killing at least three people and displacing over 718,000, disaster relief officials said.
Typhoon Haiyan was packing maximum sustained winds of 235 km per hour and gusts of up to 275 kph as it made five landfalls over the eastern and central provinces of Eastern Samar, Leyte, Cebu and Iloilo, the national weather bureau said.
Other weather organizations placed Haiyan’s maximum winds at 315 kph and gusts at 380 kph.
More than 718,000 people were evacuated from homes in coastal communities and areas prone to floods or landslides in 29 provinces before Haiyan hit, according to the national disaster relief agency.
A 56-year-old man died from electrocution when an electric post fell on him in Lingig town in the southern province of Surigao del Sur, said Eduardo del Rosario, the agency’s head.
A 15-year-old boy died from electrocution in the central province of Masbate, while a 2-year-old boy was struck by lightning in the southern city of Zamboanga, he added.
Del Rosario said the agency had been unable to contact people on the ground because of disrupted communication and power lines.
“The lack of communication is really a problem so we don’t really know the situation now,” he said. “But we are hoping to get very encouraging reports when the communication lines are back up.” He said the public was cooperative when pre—emptive evacuations were ordered. “This is maybe the result of so many previous hazards and disasters,” he explained.
Schools, businesses and government offices were closed in the affected areas, while air and sea travel was cancelled, leaving nearly 3,000 passengers stranded, the disaster relief agency said.
Thirteen airports in the Philippines were closed, the civil aviation authority said, while several power plants stopped operations after transmission lines were short-circuited overnight, cutting off the supply of electricity to the eastern and central provinces.
In many of the affected areas, toppled trees and landslides blocked roads, windows of some buildings shattered, and houses made from light materials were damaged by Haiyan’s fierce winds.
Haiyan, which brought rains to as far as Manila and nearby northern provinces, was stronger than Typhoon Bopha that left more than 1,800 people dead or missing in the southern region of Mindanao in 2012.
Meteorologists said Haiyan is the largest typhoon in the world since Typhoon Tip in October 1979, which killed nearly 100 people in Japan and Guam.