Thousands of people were evacuated from coastal and low-lying areas in the northern Philippines on Wednesday as authorities braced for the arrival of Supertyphoon Haima, which is packing wind gusts of 315 kilometers per hour (196 mph).
The typhoon, which could trigger a storm surge of at least 5 meters (16 feet), will be the most powerful to hit the Philippines since the deadly Haiyan three years ago, which killed more than 6,000 people and caused devastation through the country’s midsection.
However, forecasters said Haima looked set to strike in the country’s less-populated and better-prepared far north, which is lashed by several typhoons each year.
The provinces of Cagayan Valley and Isabela, which are directly in the path of the storm, have ordered mass evacuations of coastal and low-lying areas. School classes were canceled, in part to ready some buildings as shelters, and authorities started grounding flights. The national weather bureau warned of dangers including storm surges, landslides, flash floods and winds that could uproot trees and rip off roofs.
Alex Cada, an observer at the Philippine weather bureau, said Haima had clocked maximum sustained winds of 225 kilometers per hour and gusts of 315 kilometers per hour as of Wednesday afternoon. He said the storm could intensify before making landfall late Wednesday or early Thursday.
Haiyan packed a similar punch and spawned a 7-meter storm surge that injured nearly 30,000 people and killed most of the 6,300 people who perished in the typhoon. The storm displaced more than five million people and cost the Southeast Asian nation’s economy nearly $13 billion, according to official estimates.