Typhoon Haiyan flattens houses, triggers floods in Philippines

MANILA,  (Reuters) – Typhoon Haiyan, possibly the strongest storm ever to hit land, was barrelling out of the Philippines today after it flattened houses, triggered landslides and floods and knocked out power and communications across a number of islands.

In the central Philippines, nearly all houses in Tacloban in Leyte province with a population of about 220,000, were toppled and casualties were feared to be massive, a disaster official said. “Almost all houses were destroyed, many are totally damaged. Only a few houses are left standing, but with partial damages,” Major Rey Balido, a spokesman for the national disaster agency, told Reuters.

“Our disaster officials can’t give a number on casualties yet, the communication lines are down,” Balido said. “But I asked our teams to send us even a crude body count, they are just using a satellite phone and the signal is poor.”

Early official reports said at least four people had died, four others were missing and seven were injured by the typhoon.

Local radio reports said at least two more people had been killed on Cebu island, a popular tourist destination.

Haiyan, a Category-5 typhoon, had weakened after hitting land at least five times in the Philippines, but weather forecasters said it could strengthen again as it passes over the South China Sea before heading to Vietnam on Sunday.

The typhoon was hovering 440 kilometers west of San Jose, in southwestern Occidental Mindoro province, packing winds of a maximum 175 kph, with gusts of up to 210 kph.

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