Super Typhoon Haiyan to batter Philippines
The biggest storm of 2013 in the Western Pacific is expected to smash into central parts of the country.
Super Typhoon Haiyan is now less than 500km to the southeast of the Philippines and is expected to crash into the central islands around 00GMT on Friday.
Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Yolanda, has earned its title of ‘Super’ by virtue of sustained winds of 260kph. Gusts are estimated to be around 315kph.
These winds are equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson, 5 being the highest. It is only the fourth storm of this magnitude in the Western Pacific in 2013.
There is very little likelihood of any change in these winds, nor indeed the track of Haiyan. This has been consistently predicted by all the major weather forecasting organisations for several days.
Winds of this magnitude result in catastrophic damage, with even solid brick and stone built constructions at risk of destruction.
In addition to the damaging winds, forecasters predict between 300 and 500mm of rain from Haiyan. This is likely to cause significant flooding and pose a risk of generating mudslides.
The winds are also expected to generate a significant storm surge. Landfall is expected to be close to Leyte Island. At the head of Leyte Gulf lies the city of Tacloban, with a population of more than 220,000. The latest prediction from the United Nations/European Community Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System predicts a storm surge of more than 2 metres.
This value could well be at the lower end of possible scenarios with winds of this strength capable of pushing a wall of water as high as 5 metres ahead of it.
Haiyan is already being compared to Super Typhoon Mike (locally known as Ruping) which followed a similar track and intensity when it killed 748 people in 1990. It caused $220 million dollars of damage.
Haiyan should be clear of the Philippines by around 18GMT on Friday. Thereafter it will head across the South China Sea towards central Vietnam. Here it is also expected to cause widespread disruption with sustained winds of 165kph and more torrential rain.