Targeting the Philippines, super typhoon Haiyan barreled through the Pacific Friday. The storm — known locally as Yolanda — hit many islands in the archipelago nation and caused at least four deaths, even after authorities evacuated thousands. Haiyan hit with the strength of a category 5 hurricane, with winds of 195 miles per hour and gusts with strength of up to 235 miles per hours — numbers that may put it on the map as the strongest storm ever recorded.
Haiyan's diameter is so large that clouds from the storm covered two-thirds of the Philippines, a country that stretches for 1,150 miles. And, the storm met the criteria for a "super typhoon" by having surface winds of at least 150 mph for at least one minute. In one province, Gov. Roger Mercado said that "all roads" had been blocked and rendered unusable by fallen trees. "We don't know the extent of the damage," he said. "We are trying to estimate this. We are prepared, but this is really a wallop."
Of course, some areas of the Philippines are still recovering from a devastating earthquake that hit last month. It killed over 100 people and left many times more without shelter, making them especially vulnerable to super typhoon Haiyan. "Most of [those affected by the earthquake] are advised to evacuate to sturdy structures," said Aaron Aspi, a communications specialist for World Vision. "But there are a few thousand displaced families in quake hit areas that are still staying in makeshift tents and now that the super typhoon is here it is really heart breaking to see them struggling."
The storm has already claimed at least four lives. Falling power lines electrocuted two people, and a third was crushed by a falling tree. The fourth confirmed death was reportedly struck by lightening, but the full details of the devastation will take some time to emerge. "We have put rescue teams and equipment at different places, but at the moment we can't really do much because of the heavy rain and strong winds," Red Cross head Gwendolyn Pang told AFP. "There is no power."
The typhoon is set to graze Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos as it continues its way through the South Chine Sea. By then, though, the storm will be much weaker, downgrading to a tropical storm by the time it hits land.