Super typhoon Yolanda is the strongest typhoon in the world in 2013, Dr. Flaviana Hilario, acting deputy director for R&D of PAGASA confirmed in a press briefing, Thursday.
The 215 kph winds near Yolanda's center make it already as strong as the most powerful storm to hit the Philippines this year, Typhoon Odette (Usagi), which hit Batanes in September.
But with Yolanda still over 600 km away from land, it can be expected to surpass Odette's strength before making landfall in Eastern Visayas.
“Yung temperatura, yung oceanic condition, and atmospheric condition, favorable para lalo pang lumakas yung bagyo before hitting yung eastern Visayas,” said GMA's resident meteorologist Nathaniel “Mang Tani” Cruz in an interview with GMA News Online.
PHL on high alert
The anticipated yet unprecedented strength of typhoon Yolanda has prompted public and private institutions to batten down for the approaching storm.
President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has called for a “bayanihan” effort and cooperation with authorities amid the threat of Typhoon Yolanda in a message he delivered Thursday night.
Earlier, government agencies were already placed on hightened alert.
Meanwhile, Friday classes in all levels were cancelled in several provinces across the country due to the expected landfall of Yolanda Friday morning.
Work in the private sector has been officially suspended in Mandaue City, Butuan City, and Agusan del Norte, while suspension has been recommended for Cebu province.
Residents were ordered to evacuate in some areas of Bohol and Romblon provinces. Clarin town Mayor Allen Piezas ordered forced evacuation in coastal villages in Bohol, state-run Philippine Information Agency's Central Visayas unit reported.
Residents in coastal areas were also urged to seek higher ground and to proceed to evacuation areas.
In Romblon, forced evacuation was ordered in Cajidiocan and Looc towns, the Romblon provincial government said.
“We can't stop Yolanda from destroying everything along its path. Pero ang isang pinakamahalaga diyan ay yung protecting the lives of the members of the community. Kahit na maraming masira, as long as mabawasan yung maaaksidenteng tao, that's the best thing na dapat ingatan,” Cruz said in an earlier report.
As of 4:00 PM, Typhoon Yolanda was spotted 637 kilometers east of Hinatuan, Surigao Del Sur or 738 km Southeast of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, according to PAGASA's 5:00 PM bulletin.
Yolanda is expected to pass by Leyte, Biliran, northern tip of Cebu, Ilo-ilo, Capiz, Aklan, Romblon, Semirara Island, southern part of Mindoro and Busuanga before it exits toward the West Philippine Sea.
Overcast skies are expected in Visayas, northern section of Mindanao, and eastern part of southern Luzon.
Heavy rain will prevail in a large part of Visayas and the Caraga region in Mindanao, Friday, forecast accumulated rain map of Weather Central showed.
Eastern Luzon, especially Bicol region, will also be affected by rain, Friday.
Waves in the seaboards of Visayas, southern Luzon, and northern Mindanao are expected to be up to seven meters high due to Typhoon Yolanda, Weather Central's wave map showed.
Meanwhile, a gale warning was issued in the northern and eastern seaboards of northern Luzon, and the eastern seaboard of central Luzon. Waves are expected be up to 4.5 meters high.
Fishermen using small sea craft are advised not to set sail in the said areas.
Yolanda has maximum sustained winds of 215 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 250 kph.
From 30 kph, Yolanda is now moving west northwest at 33 kph, PAGASA Weather Specialist II Jori Loiz said in a press briefing, Thursday.
PAGASA raised Public Storm Signal Number 4 in Eastern Samar, Samar, Leyte, Southern Leyte, and Biliran Island due to Super typhoon Yolanda's slight acceleration.
Signal Number 3 was raised in Northern Samar, Masbate, northern part of Cebu (including Cebu City), Bantayan Island, Siargao Island, and Dinagat Province.
Signal Number 2 was raised in Sorsogon, Romblon, Albay, Burias Island, Bohol, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Aklan, Capiz, Antique, Ilo-ilo, Guimaras, Surigao del Norte, Surigao Del Sur, and Agusan Del Norte.
Signal Number 1 was raised in Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Mindoro Provinces, Marinduque, Northern Palawan, Calamian Group of Island, Southern Quezon, Siquijor, Misamis Oriental, and Agusan del Sur. — With reports from Kimberly Jane Tan, Rouch Dinglasan, and Marc Jayson Cayabyab/TJD, GMA News