MANILA - One of the most intense typhoons on record whipped the Philippines Friday, killing three people and terrifying millions as monster winds tore roofs off buildings and giant waves washed away flimsy homes.
Update 7.21pm: Haiyan, a category-5 super typhoon, scoured the northern tip of Cebu province and headed northwest towards Boracay island, both tourist destinations, after lashing the central islands of Leyte and Samar with 275-kph (170 mph) wind gusts and 5-6 metre (15-19 ft) waves.
At least three people were killed and seven injured, national disaster agency spokesman Rey Balido told reporters in Manila. The death toll could rise as more reports arrive.
"The humanitarian impact of Haiyan threatens to be colossal," said Patrick Fuller, spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Power and communications in the three large islands of Samar, Leyte and Bohol were almost completely down but authorities promised to restore them within 24 hours.
Officials warned that more than 12 million people were at risk, including residents of Cebu City, which has a population of about 2.5 million, and areas still reeling from a deadly 2011 storm and a 7.2-magnitude quake last month.
"The super typhoon likely made landfall with winds near 195 mph (313 kph). This makes Haiyan the strongest tropical cyclone on record to make landfall," said Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at US-based Weather Underground.
About a million people took shelter in 29 provinces, after President Benigno Aquino appealed to people in Haiyan's path to leave vulnerable areas, such as river banks, coastal villages and mountain slopes.
"Our school is now packed with evacuees," an elementary school teacher in Southern Leyte, who gave her name only as Feliza, told a radio station. Leyte and Southern Leyte are about 630 km (390 miles) southeast of Manila.
Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla reported a 3-metre (10-ft) flood in one village in Leyte. "There is zero communication at the moment," he told ANC television.