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President Benigno Aquino warned people to leave high-risk areas where forecasters said the storm surge could reach up to 23 feet.
At least three people were killed, seven injured and more than a million forced to flee their homes after Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines on Friday.
The Category-5 typhoon was packing maximum sustained winds of 195 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 235 miles per hour, when it crashed into the small city of Guiuan in the eastern province of Samar in the central islands, the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center said.
Typhoon Haiyan is the most powerful storm of 2013 and possibly the strongest ever recorded.
It made landfall around 4:30 a.m. local time, flooding streets, toppling trees, ripping roofs from houses and knocking out power and communications. Flood waters were as high as 10 feet in some areas, fueling fears the number of casualties will rise.
CNN said state media was citing TV reports as saying "around 20" people had drowned after a storm surge in Palo, a town on the island of Leyte, which borders Samar.
"Most of the fatalities sustained massive injuries in the head and upper part of the body, indicative that strong waves dashed them against hard objects," the Philippines News Agency reported. The deaths have not been confirmed.
"About 90% of the infrastructure and establishments were heavily damaged," Gwendolyn Pang, the secretary general of the Philippine National Red Cross, told CNN.
Patrick Fuller, spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told Reuters the humanitarian impact "threatens to be colossal."
The storm, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, is expected to move away from the country late Friday or early Saturday. It will head across the South China Sea towards southern China or Vietnam
On Thursday, as Haiyan barreled across the Pacific Ocean towards the Philippines, authorities grounded air and sea transportation, halted fishing, and warned boats already out in the ocean to seek shelter or return to port.
President Benigno Aquino had appealed to citizens to evacuate, especially from 100 coastal communities that could be devastated by a possible 23-foot storm surge.
"I am calling for community teamwork and cooperation," he told national media.
— NOAA (@NOAA) November 7, 2013
One of the areas directly in the storm's path suffered a devastating earthquake earlier this year and may get hit again when the typhoon makes landfall.
Bohol Island, where more than 200 people died in October's earthquake, isn't expected to take a direct hit but will be deluged by rain and strong winds.
The island's governor, Edgardo Chatto, told the Associated Press that soldiers, police and rescue units were helping residents displaced by the earthquakes, including thousands still in small tents, by moving them to shelters.
"My worst fear is that the eye of this typhoon will hit us. I hope we will be spared," Chatto told the AP by telephone.
The residents of Bohol will be among an estimated 10 million people facing disruption from Typhoon Haiyan, according to international relief agencies working to prepare for the storm.
"The humanitarian impact of Haiyan threatens to be colossal, not only in areas directly in its path, but also for nearby islands such as Bohol," said Patrick Fuller of the International Federation of Red cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The Philippines is no stranger to storm preparation. An average of 20 storms hit the nation every year, some with devastating effects.
In December 2012, Typhoon Bopha slammed into the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, killing as many as 1,900 people.
Check out this video posted on YouTube purportedly of Typhoon Haiyan.