Storm 'as powerful as Haiyan' on course to hit Japan

Storm 'as powerful as Haiyan' on course to hit Japan
Typhoon Haiyan is pictured in this NOAA satellite handout image. Haiyan, a category-5 super typhoon, tore through the Philippines in November 2013, generating giant waves that swamped coastal communities and left nearly 8,000 people dead or missing.

TOKYO - A super typhoon on course to hit Japan over the weekend is as powerful as the deadly storm that ripped through the Philippines last year, killing thousands of people, meteorologists said.

The monstrous storm, named Vongfong, was picking up speed as it churned through the far west of the Pacific Ocean yesterday.

It comes at a time when the East Asian nation is recovering from another typhoon that whipped through it just days ago, leaving 11 people dead or missing and causing travel chaos.

"Its strength is very much similar to Haiyan," said a meteorologist at the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Super Typhoon Haiyan left nearly 8,000 people dead or missing when gusts of around 300kmh tore through the Philippines in November, generating giant waves that swamped coastal communities.

Vongfong was registering gusts of the same strength, according to the Japanese agency.

Satellite images of Super Typhoon Vongfong show a perfectly formed eye in the middle of a gigantic swirling disc of cloud that appears to be sucking up weather systems from across the tropics.

Its present course will see it smash into Japan some time over the weekend, just days after Typhoon Phanfone hit the country on Monday.

Vongfong is expected to continue strengthening over the next 24 hours but could lose some steam as it heads north.

"It's safe to say that Vongfong is the strongest storm on earth since Haiyan last year," said storm specialist Michael Lowry for The Weather Channel.

"Normally, typhoons are strongest when they are in the tropics. They start to gradually weaken as they move into the sub-tropical region and the temperate zone," he said.

While there remains some uncertainty over the exact track of the storm, confidence is high that the powerful typhoon will track north towards Japan with the potential for landfall in mainland Japan by early next week, the Huffington Post reported.

It will likely first hit the northern Ryukyu Islands, which could begin to feel Vongfong's impact as early as Saturday.

Typhoon-force wind gusts are expected across the islands from late Saturday night into Sunday, accompanied by torrential downpour.

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