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The typhoon has slammed into the Philippines’ central islands, whipping up waves as high as 4.5 metres with winds gusting up to 275 kilometres per hour. Haiyan smashed into the central island of Samar, about 600 kilometres southeast of Manila, at 4:40am (2040 GMT Thursday) and was travelling quickly northwest, state meteorologist Romeo Cajulis told AFP.
President Benigno Aquino had on Thursday warned his countrymen to make all possible preparations for Haiyan, which was packing monster wind gusts of nearly 380 kilometres (235 miles) an hour as it approached the Philippines. "To our local officials, your constituents are facing a serious peril. Let us do all we can while (Haiyan) has not yet hit land," Aquino said in a nationally televised address. "We can minimise the effects of this typhoon if we help each other. Let us remain calm, especially in buying our primary needs, and in moving to safer places."
Aquino warned areas within the expected 600-kilometre typhoon front would be exposed to severe flooding as well as devastating winds, while coastal areas may see waves six metres (20 feet) high. More than 125,000 people in the most vulnerable areas had been moved to evacuation centres before Haiyan hit, according to the civil defence office, and millions of others braced for the typhoon in their homes. Authorities said schools in the storm's path were closed, ferry services suspended and fishermen ordered to secure their vessels.
In the capital of Manila, which was not directly in the typhoon's path but still expected to feel some of its impact, many schools were also closed. Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and other carriers announced the suspension of hundreds of flights, mostly domestic but also some international. Cajulis said Haiyan was travelling quickly, at 39 kilometres an hour, and would travel across the country towards the South China Sea throughout Friday. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
State weather forecaster Glaize Escullar said on Thursday Haiyan was expected to hit areas still recovering from a devastating storm in 2011 and from a 7.1-magnitude quake last month. They include the central island of Bohol, the epicentre of the earthquake that killed 222 people, where at least 5,000 survivors are still living in tents while waiting for new homes.
Other vulnerable areas are the port cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on the southern island of Mindanao, where flash floods induced by Tropical Storm Washi killed more than 1,000 people in December 2011. Haiyan had maximum sustained winds on Friday morning of 315 kilometres an hour, and gusts of 379 kilometres an hour, according to the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre.
The Philippine state weather service, which typically gives lower wind readings, said the maximum gusts on Friday morning were 275 kilometres an hour. But even that reading would still make Haiyan the world's strongest typhoon this year, according to David Michael Padua, a meteorologist with the Weather Philippines Foundation, a storm monitoring organisation that runs the www.weather.com.ph website.
The Philippines is battered by an average of 20 major storms or typhoons each year, many of them deadly, but scientists have said climate change may be increasing their ferocity and frequency.
International Needs Australia works through local in-country partners to assist communities significantly impacted by the effects of natural and man-made disasters. As our partners are already based in the country, they are able to respond quickly to address the immediate survival needs of the people affected. Responding to emergencies is varied and complex but is generally approached in two major phases - Relief and Recovery. During the relief phase, our partners assess the situation and work with those affected to identify the most critical and urgent needs. Providing access to food, safe shelter and clean water are usually the highest priorities, as is addressing issues of sanitation and hygiene. Immediate relief efforts will involve the distribution of items such as rice, cooking utensils, plastic sheeting, blankets, mats, clean water, purifiers and hygiene kits. As time progresses, our partners will assist communities transitioning to recovery, which is focused around the re-building of homes and the re-establishment of livelihoods.
In the event that more money is raised than is needed to respond to this emergency, International Needs Australia will retain the donated money within its Emergency Relief Fund for use in response to other disasters or in disaster mitigation, usually within the country targeted in the original appeal.