MANILA - One of the most intense typhoons ever recorded tore into the Philippines on Friday, triggering flash floods and ripping down buildings as millions of people huddled indoors.
Super Typhoon Haiyan smashed into the central island of Samar, about 600 kilometres southeast of Manila, at 4:40am (2040 GMT Thursday) and was travelling quickly northwest, state meteorologist Romeo Cajulis told AFP.
President Benigno Aquino had on Thursday warned his countrymen to make all possible preparations for Haiyan, which was packing monster wind gusts of nearly 380 kilometres (235 miles) an hour as it approached the Philippines.
"To our local officials, your constituents are facing a serious peril. Let us do all we can while (Haiyan) has not yet hit land," Aquino said in a nationally televised address.
"We can minimise the effects of this typhoon if we help each other. Let us remain calm, especially in buying our primary needs, and in moving to safer places."
Haiyan had maximum sustained winds as it approached the Philippines on Friday morning of 315 kilometres an hour, and gusts of 379 kilometres an hour, according to the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre.
The Philippine state weather service, which typically gives lower wind readings, said the maximum gusts on Friday morning were 275 kilometres an hour but even that reading would easily make Haiyan the world's strongest typhoon this year, according to David Michael Padua, a meteorologist with the Weather Philippines Foundation.
A prominent American meteorologist, Dr Jeff Masters, wrote on www.wunderground.com that Haiyan was one of the most intense typhoons ever recorded.
Aquino warned areas within the expected 600-kilometre typhoon front would be exposed to severe flooding as well as devastating winds, while coastal areas may see waves six metres (20 feet) high.
In the eastern coastal city of Tacloban, one of the first areas to be hit, streets were flooded and some buildings were torn down, according to footage broadcast on ABS CBN television on Friday morning.