One of the strongest typhoons ever recorded pounded the central Philippines Friday, causing widespread destruction and killing at least three people.
Many parts of the archipelago nation were cut off from electricity and communications, as Typhoon Haiyan made landfall on the islands of Leyte and Samar.
Television footage showed massive waves on the shorelines, flooding and landslides. More than 700,000 people in 29 provinces were evacuated from their homes.
The storm, known in the Philippines as Yolanda, had wind gusts of more than 350 kilometers per hour as it lashed the islands. Some forecasters say this makes it the strongest recorded typhoon ever to make landfall.
Officials say three people are confirmed dead and seven injured, though the death toll seemed certain to rise. Due to a lack of communications, the full extent of the damage and casualties will be unclear for some time.
The typhoon is expected to move into the South China Sea Saturday, where it could gain strength on its way toward Vietnam.
Philippine meteorologists said Haiyan could be more dangerous than last year's Typhoon Bopha, which killed at least 1,100 people on the southern island of Mindanao. Bopha was the world's most powerful storm of 2012.
The Philippines is vulnerable to severe flooding caused by heavy rains and tsunamis. It is hit by about 20 tropical cyclones each year.
Presidential spokesman Sonny Coloma said the government is working to distribute relief goods and prevent mass casualties in the areas worst hit by Haiyan.
"The goods were pre-positioned there and have been brought to the areas of great concern. Right now they're taking care of continuing needs. Let's remember with those past calamities, ones similar to this, what the president wants is a timely supply and enough food."
Television images of Leyte Island's Tacloban city showed streets turned into rivers, as iron sheets from damaged buildings swirled in the air above. Many poorly constructed houses were completely washed away.
Minnie Portales, Public Engagement Director with World Vision Philippines, told VOA her aid group has not been able to contact its spokesperson in Tacloban. She said some areas there saw nearly 5-meter-high waves and were under 3 meters of water.
"All the electricity has been cut off, all the houses were damaged, particularly in Tacloban because of the strong winds that were 350 kilometers per hour. And there's a difficulty in terms of communication because there are two telecommunications centers that were already affected."
Portales said the casualty figures likely will rise as communication lines are restored. She said there will be an immediate need for food, water and shelter, since many homes and agricultural land were damaged.
The World Vision official was speaking from Manila, which was not expected to be impacted significantly by the storm.
But one area of particular concern is the central Philippine island of Bohol, where more than 200 people were killed in a 7.2 magnitude earthquake last month, forcing thousands of people to stay in temporary shelters,