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Monster storm roars into Philippines

yphoon Haiyan is battering the central Philippines with sustained winds of up to 320 km/h (199mph).

Meteorologists say that if initial estimates based on satellite images are borne out, it could be the most powerful storm ever to make landfall.

The storm has forced millions to seek shelter in 20 provinces. At least three people have died, but it may take days before the full damage is known.

The region was already struggling after a powerful earthquake last month.

The authorities have warned that more than 12 million people are at risk from the storm – the equivalent of a category five hurricane.

It has so far lashed central islands including Leyte and Samar, and the northern tip of Cebu – including Cebu city, the country’s second largest with a population of 2.5 million.

image of Matt McGrathAnalysisMatt McGrathEnvironment correspondent, BBC News

The Philippines has experienced more than its fair share of super typhoons over the past decade, according to experts. There were at least three of these powerful events in nine of the 10 years between 2002 and 2012.

The islands are unlucky, scattered along the world’s most active typhoon belt where plentiful supplies of warm water and moist air provide the energy to kick start super storms.

Despite these factors, Haiyan has shown a number of unusual features which have increased its strength. Normally the walls of the storm that rotate around the eye are replaced as it moves, often weakening the wind speed. In the case of Haiyan this hasn’t happened.

Another factor has been the speed of this typhoon. Going so quickly, it hasn’t stirred up the waters ahead of it. Slower storms churn up the waters, causing an upwelling of colder water that usually takes the energy from the storm.

However Haiyan has now lost energy over land and is expected to move on to Vietnam as a Category 3 Typhoon in the next few days.

Continue reading the main story

Two people were electrocuted in storm-related incidents and another was killed after being struck by lightning, according to officials. Seven others were reported injured.

Reports say power and communications have been almost completely lost in Samar, Leyte and Bohol.

Save the Children Philippines director Anna Lindenfors predicted a high casualty rate.

“We expect the level of destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan to be extensive and devastating, and sadly we fear that many lives will be lost,” she said in a statement.

Former BBC Manila correspondent Kate McGeown says that while reports are now coming in from some of the affected cities, there is still very little information from the countryside in large areas of the Visayas region such as Negros and Iloilo, and the island of Mindoro.


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