Manila (AFP): Millions of people in the Philippines were ordered Wednesday to prepare for one of the strongest typhoons to ever hit the disaster-battered country, with authorities warning of giant storm surges and destructive winds.
Super Typhoon Haima was forecast to hit remote communities in the far north of the country about 11:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Wednesday, bringing winds almost on a par with catastrophic Super Typhoon Haiyan that claimed more than 7,350 lives in 2013.
“It’s not just heavy rain and strong winds that we are expecting. It’s also floods, landslides and storm surges in coastal areas. Those in these areas, you are in danger. Find safer ground,” Allan Tabel, chief of the interior ministry’s disaster and information coordinating centre, told a nationally televised briefing.
With Haima having a weather band of 800 kilometres (500 miles), more than 10 million people across the northern parts of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon will be affected, according to the government’s disaster risk management agency.
Haima was approaching the Philippines with sustained winds of 225 kilometres an hour and gusts of 315 kilometres an hour, according to the state weather bureau.
Authorities warned coastal communities to expect storm surges of up to five metres (16 feet).
Nevertheless, the areas directly in Haima’s path are not densely populated and are well-drilled in storm preparations.
The Philippine islands are often the first major landmass to be hit by storms that generate over the Pacific Ocean. The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms each year, many of them deadly.
The most powerful and deadly was Haiyan, which destroyed entire towns in heavily populated areas of the central Philippines.
“If we talk about typhoons that entered the Philippines, this is the second strongest next to Haiyan,” government weather specialist Benison Estareja told AFP.
“The difference is that (Haima) has a higher track and will hit an area where people are more used to strong storms.”
Haima was forecast to pass over Luzon on Thursday, then track towards southern Hong Kong and southern China.
Haima is the second typhoon to hit the northern Philippines in a week, after Sarika claimed at least one life and left three people missing.