BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A new superstorm, expected to reach the Philippines on Friday morning, will bring maximum sustained winds of around 268 kms (167 miles) an hour, meteorologists said, stronger than a typhoon that caused widespread damage in the south of the country last December.
Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, is forecast to hit the archipelago’s central islands, which are still recovering from a 7.2 magnitude earthquake last month.
The quake on Oct. 15 killed 190 people, displaced 380,000 and affected over 3 million in the tourist destinations of Bohol and the nearby Cebu islands.
"If Typhoon Yolanda continues at its current strength, its impact could be colossal, not only on those areas directly in its path, but also for nearby islands already battling to recover from last month's massive earthquake,” Bernd Schell, country representative in the Philippines for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Hundreds of thousands of people in Central Visayas saw their homes damaged or destroyed three weeks ago and many are living in evacuation centres or makeshift shelters – they are particularly vulnerable as the storm sweeps in,” he said.
Red Cross disaster response teams are on standby and volunteers are issuing safety advice and urging people to prepare for the typhoon, he said.
About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year. Aid agency Plan International said Haiyan was the 25th typhoon to enter the Philippines Area of Responsibility (PAR) this year.
The Philippines is already grappling with the effects of several natural disasters and conflicts. Apart from the earthquake in Bohol, over 75,000 people remain displaced in Zamboanga in the south following September fighting between government troops and a breakaway faction of Muslim rebels.
At least four typhoons have caused widespread flooding and damage since August.
Last December Typhoon Bopha, the most intense storm to hit the Philippines in 2012, struck eastern parts of Mindanao island in the south, killing more than 1,800 people, damaging 210,000 homes and affecting over 6 million people.