MANILA, Philippines (AP) - One of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded slammed into the Philippines on Friday, setting off landslides, knocking out power in one entire province and cutting communications in the country's central region of island provinces. Two people had died.
Telephone lines appeared down as it was difficult to get through to the landfall site 650 kilometers (405 miles) southeast of Manila where Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the southern tip of Samar island before barreling on to Leyte Island.
A villager was electrocuted in southern Surigao del Sur province and another was hit by tree felled by strong winds in central Cebu province, officials said.
Television images from Tacloban city on Leyte Island showed a street under knee-deep floodwater carrying debris that had been blown down by the fierce winds. Tin roofing sheets ripped from buildings were flying above the street.
Visibility was so poor that only the silhouette of a local reporter could be seen through the driving rain.
Weather officials said that Haiyan had sustained winds at 235 kilometers (147 miles) per hour, with gusts of 275 kph (170 mph) when it made landfall.
More than 125,000 people had been evacuated from towns and villages in the typhoon's path, which was to cut across the central Philippines, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said. Among them were thousands of residents of Bohol who had been camped in tents and other makeshift shelters after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit the island last month.
SALT LAKE CITY — Typhoons and hurricanes are something most Utahns will never experience. But one Utah man lived through not one, but two typhoons in the Philippines.
In 2008 and 2009, South Jordan native James Higbee survived two different typhoons.
"When that thing hit, it was just constant rain all day," Higbee said.
As a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Higbee experienced these typhoons during his time in the Philippines. His pictures now serve as evidence of the rain soaked, flooded periods that lasted for days after the storms.
Higbee has a picture that was taken in Manila, "where the drainage system is not very effective at all, so a lot of the rainwater just sits there and gets trapped in all the streets," he said.
Typhoons are somewhat common to the Philippines, Higbee said, to the point where he told me it's just a way of life.
Higbee said Filipinos know what to expect when large storms thrash the coastlines, but it's the weeks which follow a typhoon that create the worst effects. Many residents in the Philippines will actually build their homes on stilts — some as much as six to eight feet tall — to protect their homes from floodwaters, Higbee said.
"The worst thing we dealt with was the aftermath, all the flooding. That was probably the scariest part to see was all the flooding that happened," he said.
Now a student at Utah Valley University, Higbee said he was amazed by the sense of community and the amount of resources which are devoted to cleanup — something that will no doubt be needed once again in the coming days.
"I'm sure this one is kind of scary because it's supposed to be the biggest one, but I would say they know how to deal with it. It's kind of unfortunate, because some of the people can't do too much to avoid it, but they know what to do (afterward)," Higbee said.The LDS Church has also released a statement about the missionaries currently in the Philippines.
Southern Leyte Gov. Roger Mercado said 31,000 people were evacuated in his landslide-prone mountainous province before the super typhoon struck, knocking out power, setting off small landslides that blocked roads in rural areas, uprooting trees and ripping roofs off houses around his residence.
The dense clouds and heavy rains made the day seem almost as dark as night, he said.
"When you're faced with such a scenario, you can only pray, and pray and pray," Mercado told The Associated Press by telephone, adding that his town mayors have not called in to report any major damage.
"I hope that means they were spared and not the other way around," he said. "My worst fear is there will be many massive loss of lives and property."
The typhoon – the 24th serious storm to hit the Philippines this year – is forecast to barrel through the Philippines' central region Friday and Saturday before blowing toward the South China Sea over the weekend, heading toward Vietnam.
Jeff Masters, a former hurricane meteorologist who is meteorology director at the private firm Weather Underground, said the storm had been poised to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall. He warned of "catastrophic damage."
But he said the Philippines might get a small break because the storm is so fast moving that flooding from heavy rains – usually the cause of most deaths from typhoons in the Philippines – may not be as bad.
Weather forecaster Gener Quitlong said the typhoon was not losing much of its strength because there is no large land mass to slow it down since the region is comprised of islands with no tall mountains.
Officials in Cebu province have shut down electric service to the northern part of the province to avoid electrocutions in case power pylons are toppled, said assistant regional civil defense chief Flor Gaviola.
President Benigno Aquino III assured the public of war-like preparations, with three C-130 air force cargo planes and 32 military helicopters and planes on standby, along with 20 navy ships.
Associated Press writers Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.
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