Super Typhoon Haiyan, possibly the strongest storm ever to make landfall, killed an estimated 1,200 people in the Philippines, the Philippine Red Cross reported on Saturday.
The estimate was made based on reports from the ground, Richard Gordon, CEO of the Philippine Red Cross, told USA TODAY.
Haiyan, called Yolanda in the Philippines, hit the central islands of Samar and Leyte early Friday with winds gusting up to 235 mph, according to the U.S. Navy warning center in Honolulu. It is the fourth strongest tropical storm ever recorded and possibly the strongest to ever make landfall.
Having knocked out power and communication in much of the region of Eastern Visayas, it’s making its way to Vietnam and Laos early Saturday.
Typhoons are getting stronger in the area, says the Philippine government. As the oceans warm, the storms are expected to be fewer, but stronger.
“The average tropical cyclone maximum wind speed is likely to increase, but the global frequency of tropical cyclones is likely to decrease or remain unchanged,” said a special climate change report from a intergovernmental panel of scientists.
“Menacingly, the Filipino typhoons are getting stronger and stronger, especially since the 90s,” Romulo Virola, head of the government’s national statistics board, told USA Today. “From 1947 to 1960, the strongest typhoon to hit us was Amy in December 1951 with a highest wind speed recorded at 240kph in Cebu. From 1961 to 1980, Sening was the record holder with a highest wind speed of 275kph in October 1970. During the next 20 years, the highest wind speed was recorded by Anding and Rosing at 260kph. In the current millennium, the highest wind speed has soared to 320kph recorded by Reming in Nov-Dec 2006. If this is due to climate change, we better be prepared for even stronger ones in the future.”
"We expect the level of destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan to be extensive and devastating, and sadly we fear that many lives will be lost," said the director of Save the Children in the Philippines, Anna Lindenfors.
"With this magnitude we know that the destruction is overwhelming," said Emma Amores at Villamor Airbase in Manila, where relief supplies and personnel were about to head to Tacloban, the largest city in the Eastern Visayan Islands. "From the images we saw on TV, it's highly likely our houses are gone. We just want to know that the family are all safe."
The World Metereological Assocation reported earlier this year that tropical cyclones killed nearly 170,000 people from 2000 to 2010 and costing about $380 billion.
The Red Cross is providing food, water, shelter and other relief to those affected by the storm.
"The Philippines are always resilient, and we're going to get back up," Gordon said.