MANILA, Philippines — One of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded slammed into the Philippines today, cutting communications and blocking roads in the center of the country amid worries of serious damage and casualties.
Telephone lines appeared down as it was difficult to get through to the landfall site 405 miles southeast of Manila where Typhoon Haiyan slammed into a rural area of the country.
Weather officials said Haiyan had sustained winds of 147 mph, with gusts of 170 mph, when it made landfall at eastern Samar province's Guiuan township.
The local weather bureau makes estimates based on longer periods of time than others, such as the U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center, which said shortly before the typhoon made landfall that its maximum sustained winds were 195 mph, with gusts up to 235 mph.
"There aren't too many buildings constructed that can withstand that kind of wind," said Jeff Masters, a former hurricane meteorologist who is meteorology director at the private firm Weather Underground.
Masters said the storm had been poised to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall. He warned of "catastrophic damage."
Already authorities reported having trouble reaching colleagues in the landfall area, with forecaster Mario Palafox of the national weather bureau saying contact had been lost with staff in the landfall area.
More than 125,000 people had been evacuated from towns and villages in the typhoon's path, 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 devastated many towns on the island province last year.
Masters said the Philippines might get a small break because the storm was so fast moving that flooding from heavy rains — usually the cause of most deaths from typhoons in the Philippines — may not be as bad.
The typhoon is forecast to barrel through the Philippines' central region today and Saturday before blowing toward the South China Sea over the weekend.