Moving biggest typhoon in history smashes into Philippines before it heads north-west towards China

Super Typhoon Haiyan smashed into the Philippines on Friday as a category 5 storm and is expected to continue towards South China and Vietnam.

At least three people were killed by what experts described as possibly the strongest hurricane ever recorded to hit land and certainly the biggest tropical typhoon this year.

Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, battered the Philippine islands of Samar and Leyte as it made landfall with winds reaching beyond 300km/h at around 8am GMT Friday morning.

Weather Underground’s director of meteorology Dr Jeff Masters said Yolanda could be the strongest tropical typhoon on recorded using early readings.

Dr Masters posted on the company website: “Haiyan had winds of 306–313km/h at landfall, making it the strongest tropical cyclone on record to make landfall in world history. The previous record was held by the Atlantic’s Hurricane Camille of 1969, which made landfall in Mississippi with 306km/h winds.”

Yolanda, the second category 5 typhoon to hit the Philippines in two months after Typhoon Usagi made landfall in September, forced mass evacuations and affected millions across the country although the capital Manila was spared the full force of a direct hit.

Risk modelling company EqeCat, which described Yolanda as “extremely dangerous” in its CatWatch report released on Thursday evening, forecast the storm to continue west-northwest taking it into South China and making landfall in Vietnam on Sunday as a category 4 storm.

The impact of the Super Typhoon on the Philippines was expected to be largely humanitarian as no significant insured losses are anticipated however, PwC catastrophe expert Dom del Re said Yolanda gave global reinsurers a reminder of the risks facing the region.

Del Re said: “The reinsurance classes of business most likely to be impacted are commercial and industrial property, and some marine classes. For growing global reinsurers, this massive category 5 typhoon is a reminder of the risk the country is exposed to.”

He added: “The future revenue potential is attractive and premium has grown as much as 12% in past years, but catastrophe risk management will be a key component of any growth strategy. Even allowing for the events in the Philippines, this has been a benign year for the global catastrophe reinsurance markets and if this activity continues to the end of the year, this will have a downward pressure on rates.”