MANILA - The Philippines evacuated coastal areas and put emergency workers on alert on Wednesday as a storm expected to grow into a super typhoon headed towards central islands still recovering from a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit last month.
Typhoon Haiyan, with gusts of up to 185 kph (115 mph), was moving over the sea at 30 kph (18 mph) and may make landfall at mid-day on Friday in the central islands of Samar and Leyte, said Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo.
"We are advising the people to secure their homes because we are expecting a powerful typhoon, a super typhoon," Montejo said.
"It's still in the Pacific but it has gained speed and may enter our area of responsibility by tomorrow (Thursday)." Officials in the central Cebu, Bohol and Albay areas have closed schools, prepared emergency shelters and food and put emergency workers on alert.
"We're aiming for zero casualties so we sent advisories to local disaster agencies to start evacuating people from coastal and low-lying areas as well as those in landslide-prone areas,"said Flor Gaviola, a regional disaster official.
Thousands of people on Bohol island are still in shelters after their homes were destroyed in an Oct. 15 earthquake that killed more than 200 people.
About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year.
Typhoon Bopha, the strongest storm to hit last year, flattened three coastal towns on the southern island of Mindanao, killing 1,100 people, and destroyed crops, property and infrastructure worth $1.04 billion.