Millions of people in the Philippines were on high alert today as one of the strongest typhoons ever hit the disaster-battered country with authorities warning of giant storm surges and destructive winds. Super Typhoon Haima hit the northern province of Cagayan at about 11 pm (1500 GMT) today, bringing strong winds and heavy rains almost on a par with catastrophic Super Typhoon Haiyan which claimed more than 7,350 lives in 2013. "We only pray we be spared the destruction such as the previous times, which brought agony and suffering," President Rodrigo Duterte said in Beijing, where he is currently on a four-day visit. "But we are ready. Everything has been deployed." Haima has a weather band of 800 kilometres putting more than 10 million people across the northern parts of the Philippines' main island of Luzon within its reach, according to the government's disaster risk management agency. The storm struck the Philippines with sustained winds of 225 kilometres an hour and gusts of 315 kilometres an hour, state weather forecaster Gener Quitlong said. It is expected to move westward on through the mountainous northern end of the main Philippine island of Luzon and will exit the landmass tomorrow, he told AFP. It is then expected to track towards southern China. Civil Defence chief Ricardo Jalad said all areas in the storm's path had undergone pre-emptive evacuation although he could not give an estimate on how many had fled. "We are expecting that there will be damages to light structures," as well as danger from possible floods and landslides, Jalad told radio station DZMM. Authorities warned coastal communities to expect storm surges of five metres (16 feet) or higher. "It's already started.
The wind is strong, the waves are big," said Julie Hermano, manager of a small resort in Santa Ana, a coastal town of about 30,000 people that is in the typhoon's direct path. "Some residents have been panic-buying food in markets because we were told it's going to be a super typhoon. We've already tied down our water tank and prepared our (power) generator set." The Philippine islands are often the first major landmass to be hit by storms that generate over the Pacific Ocean. The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms each year, many of them deadly. The most powerful and deadliest was Haiyan, which destroyed entire towns in heavily populated areas of the central Philippines.
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