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From space, Typhoon Haiyan was almost beautiful. On the ground, it wasn't so pretty.

Strongest Cyclone Ever? Typhoon Haiyan Slams Philippines

By Mark Memmott NPR

(Click here for our latest update.)

Meteorologists weren’t holding back Friday after watching in amazement as Typhoon Haiyan roared over the Philippines with pounding rain and top sustained winds approaching 200 mph as it neared the coast.

It is “the strongest tropical cyclone on record” that’s made landfall, writes Jeff Masters at Wunderground.

Since we last posted about the storm Thursday evening, there’s been word that Haiyan caused landslides, knocked out power and led to the deaths of at least four people as it slammed the islands, The Associated Press reports.

That death toll is expected to rise. According to the AP, “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.” Getting word about what’s happening, as the AP notes, is going to take some time:

“Telephone lines appeared down as it was difficult to get through to the landfall site 405 miles southeast of Manila where Typhoon Haiyan … slammed into the southern tip of Samar island before barreling on to Leyte Island.”

Correspondent Simone Orendain, who is in Manila, tells NPR’s Newscast Desk that authorities are “working with private radio groups to get word” about the extent of the damage so far and any more deaths.

The good news is that Haiyan is now back over water, allowing authorities to lower their public warnings — a sign that the worst is over.

The BBC is live blogging about Haiyan here.

Update at 11:30 a.m. ET. “Fortunately, This Moved Like A Porsche;” Now, It’s Headed For Vietnam:

“The storm moved across the country at about 25 miles per hour, roughly twice as fast as a similar storm last year, Typhoon Bopha, which killed more than 1,000 people,” The New York Times writes. “A higher speed decreases the impact of rain and landslides, a major cause of deaths.

” ‘Fortunately, this moved like a Porsche,’ said Michael Padua, a senior typhoon specialist at a private forecasting group, Weather Philippines.”

Looking ahead, though, Weather Philippines forecasts that “this howler will move quickly toward Vietnam.”

According to The Wall Street Journal:

“The storm is expected to make landfall in central Vietnam around lunchtime Sunday, according to the Vietnam National Center for Hydro-Meteorology Forecasting, with speeds ranging between 150 kilometers and 183 kilometers an hour [93 mph to 113 mph].

“Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung Friday urged central provinces to call all boats ashore and ban boats from operating at sea Sunday. Mr. Dung also ordered the Ministry of Defense to help central provinces evacuate people from coastal and flood-prone areas.”

Australian Broadcasting says China is also on alert.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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