“The wind damage should be the most extreme in Phillipines history,” he said.
After hitting Guiuan on the southern tip of Samar island, about 650 kilometers (405 miles) southeast of Manila, the typhoon pummeled nearby Leyte island.
“I think this is the strongest so far since the 1960s,” Southern Leyte Gov. Roger Mercado said on ABS-CBN television. “This is really a wallop. All roads are impassable due to fallen trees.”
A reporter for the network in the Tacloban city was drenched in the pounding rain and said he was wearing a helmet as protection against flying debris. Visibility was so poor that only his silhouette could be seen through the thick curtain of water.
Television images showed a street under knee-deep floodwater carrying debris that had been blown down by the fierce winds. Tin sheets ripped off from buildings roofs were flying above the street.
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.
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.