According to The Associated Press, the strongest typhoon in the world this year bore down on the Philippines, sending thousands fleeing late on Thursday (November 7).
The US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii said Typhoon Haiyan's maximum sustained winds were 314 kilometers per hour (195 mph), with gusts up to 379 kilometers per hour (235 mph).
The typhoon could further strengthen and pick up speed as it moves over the Pacific Ocean before slamming into the eastern province of Samar early Friday (November 8), government forecaster Buddy Javier said.
The storm was not expected to directly hit Manila further north. The lowest alert in a four-level typhoon warning system was issued in the flood-prone capital area, meaning it could experience winds of up to 60 kph (37 mph) and rain.
As of 2100 hours, the eye of the typhoon was 338 kilometers (211 miles) southeast of Eastern Samar province's Guiuan township. The storm was moving at 39 kph (24 mph), up from its earlier speed of 33 kph (20 mph).
COMMENT: Cyclone Phailin, which hit eastern India on October 12, packed sustained winds of up to 222 kph (138 mph) and stronger gusts.
Haiyan is forecast to barrel through the country's central region Friday and Saturday before blowing toward the South China Sea over the weekend, heading toward Vietnam.
President Benigno Aquino III warned people to leave high-risk areas, including 100 coastal communities where forecasters said the storm surge could reach up to seven meters (23 feet). He urged mariners to remain in port.
Aquino ordered officials to aim for zero casualties, a goal often not met in an archipelago lashed by about 20 tropical storms each year, most of them deadly and destructive. Haiyan is the 24th such storm to hit the Philippines this year.
The president also assured the public of war-like preparations: three C-130 air force cargo planes and 32 military helicopters and planes on standby, along with 20 navy ships.
PLEASE NOTE: For foreign travelers scheduled to arrive in the Philippines in coming days, we strongly urge them to defer their arrival and reschedule their arrival until November 11.