THE PHILIPPINES has ordered evacuations along its northern coastline as well as low-lying and mountainous areas, as the country braces for Typhoon Haima (local name Lawin), a tropical cyclone that has now been upgraded to a Category 5 storm.
Media reports say the typhoon – the strongest storm threat in three years – is expected to make landfall in Luzon before midnight Wednesday and leave in its wake major flooding and landslides as well as storm surges of up to 5 meters.
According to The Weather Channel, Haima was centered about 345 miles (555km) east-northeast of the Philippine capital of Manila as of midday Wednesday.
The report said: “Infrared satellite imagery shows a classic, intense, west Pacific super typhoon with a large eye and an intense ring of convection surrounding it.”
“The typhoon is very strong and destructive because of its large diameter,” said Rene Paciente, assistant weather services chief at the weather bureau, as quoted by Reuters.
The wire agency also said that some flights and classes have been suspended in anticipation of the storm, while the Philippine Coast Guard has banned sea travel and fishing.
A report by Accuweather said Haima is forecast to track over the northern part of Luzon in northern Philippines. It said landfall on the eastern coast of Luzon, near Kinayabutan Beach in Baggao, will likely take place Wednesday night. CNN reported that the storm will last through to Thursday and that at least 2.7 million people across seven provinces will be affected.
Accuweather added that wind gusts upon landfall could go up to 275kph (173mph) and cause “major damage to areas in its path”.
“Winds of this magnitude are capable of major structural damage, including completely removing exterior walls and roofs.
“These powerful winds in combination with torrential rain will down trees, and may cause widespread power outages that could linger well after the storm has passed,” it wrote wrote.
Haima will be the second typhoon to hammer the Philippines in four days; on Sunday, Typhoon Sarika (local name Karen) slammed into the northeast in the Aurora province, killing at least three people.
When it strikes, Haima will be the 12th typhoon to hit the Philippines this year. In 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan struck central Philippines, leaving major devastation in its wake, including the deaths of at least 6,000 people.