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Powerful typhoon sweeps through Philippines, kills three and wrecks homes

The death toll from the storm could rise further as at least one other man is missing.

Updated 21:25

ONE OF THE most intense typhoons on record whipped the Philippines today, killing at least three people and terrifying millions as monster winds tore apart homes.

Super Typhoon Haiyan smashed into coastal communities on the central island of Samar, about 600 kilometres  southeast of Manila, before dawn on Friday with maximum sustained winds of about 315 kilometres (195 miles) an hour.

It then swept across the central Philippines, destroying phone and power lines, as well as homes and vital infrastructure, causing a massive communications blackout that left authorities without a clear idea of the extent of the damage.

Like a screaming woman

“It was frightening. The wind was so strong, it was so loud, like a screaming woman. I could see trees being toppled down,” said Liwayway Sabuco, a saleswoman from Catbalogan, a major city on Samar.

The government said three people had been confirmed killed and another man was missing after he fell off a gangplank in the central port of Cebu.

But the death toll was expected to rise, with disaster relief officials particularly concerned for isolated communities in Leyte and Samar provinces on the far east of the country.

One of those communities was Guiuan, a fishing town of about 40,000 people that was the first to be hit after Haiyan swept in from the Pacific Ocean. More than 18 hours later, there had been no communication with anyone in the town.

Flash floods

Communication was also cut to Tacloban, the capital of Leyte with more than 200,000 people that appeared to be badly damaged.

Corrugated iron sheets were ripped off roofs and floated with the wind before crashing into buildings, according to video footage taken by a resident that was uploaded on the Internet before communications were cut.

An ABS-CBN television crew also broadcast dramatic footage from Tacloban as Haiyan hit, showing flash floods that had turned the city’s streets into rivers. But the network said it had not heard from the crew since.

An average of 20 major storms or typhoons, many of them deadly, batter the Philippines each year.

The developing country is particularly vulnerable because it is often the first major landmass for the storms after they build over the Pacific Ocean.

The Philippines suffered the world’s strongest storm of 2012, when Typhoon Bopha left about 2,000 people dead or missing on the southern island of Mindanao.

Preparing for disaster

Authorities expressed confidence that the death toll from Haiyan would not climb dramatically, citing a massive effort starting two days before the typhoon hit to evacuate those in vulnerable areas and make other preparations.

More than 748,000 people had sought shelter in evacuation centres, 3,000 ferries had been locked down at ports and hundreds of flights were cancelled, according to the national disaster management council’s spokesmen, Reynaldo Balido.

“In terms of damage, we cannot avoid that… but the silver lining here is that the casualties are only three as of now,” Balido said in Manila.

“It is possible that this will increase, but we don’t think it will increase that much more unlike in previous typhoons. The people have learnt their lesson.”

Powerful typhoon sweeps through Philippines, kills three and wrecks homes
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  • Philippines Typhoon

    Residents living near the slopes of Mayon volcano are evacuated.Source: Nelson Salting
  • Philippines Typhoon

    Residents living near the slopes of Mayon volcano are evacuated.Source: Nelson Salting
  • Philippines Typhoon

    Residents clear the road after a tree was toppled by strong winds and damaged a van.Source: Chester Baldicantos
  • Philippines Typhoon

    Workers assess the damage after a giant Christmas tree was toppled by strong winds.Source: Chester Baldicantos
  • Philippines Typhoon

    Residents clear the road after a tree was toppled by strong winds.Source: Chester Baldicantos
  • Philippines Typhoon

    A man reinforces his house with banana stalks as powerful typhoon Haiyan hits Legazpi city. Source: AP/Press Association Images
  • Philippines Typhoon

    Source: AP/Press Association Images
  • Philippines Typhoon

    A house is engulfed by the storm.Source: Nelson Salting
  • Philippines Typhoon

    Huge waves brought about by powerful typhoon Haiyan hit the shoreline in Legazpi city.Source: Nelson Salting
  • Philippines Typhoon

    Debris litters the road by the coastal village in Legazpi city Source: AP/Press Association Images

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