Strongest typhoon on record hits Philippines

A category 5 super typhoon named Haiyan has forced millions take refuge in storm shelters.

A satellite image of category 5 Super Typhoon Haiyan which made landfall in the Philippines on 8 November 2013. Picture: AFP.

MANILA - Typhoon Haiyan, potentially the strongest recorded typhoon to make landfall, slammed into the Philippines' central islands on Friday, forcing millions of people to flee to safer ground or take refuge in storm shelters.

The category 5 super typhoon whipped up giant waves as high as 4-5 metres that lashed the islands of Leyte and Samar, and was on track to carve a path through popular holiday destinations.

Haiyan is also forecast to pass close to the Philippines' second-largest city Cebu, home to around 2.5 million people.

"The super typhoon likely made landfall with winds near 195 313 km/h. This makes Haiyan the strongest tropical typhoon on record to make landfall," said Jeff Masters, a hurricane expert and director of meteorology at US-based Weather Underground.

About a million people were in areas of shelter in more than 20 provinces, after Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Thursday appealed to people in Haiyan's path to evacuate from danger spots, such as river banks, coastal villages and mountain slopes.

"We are fearful because there is talk that the sea will rise," an elementary school teacher in Southern Leyte province who only gave her name as Feliza told a radio station.

"We can feel the powerful winds, our school is now packed with evacuees. Trees in coastal areas have already fallen."

Authorities stopped all transport services, fishing operations and cancelled nearly 200 local flights.

Schools, offices and shops in the central Philippines were closed, with hospitals, soldiers and emergency workers on standby for rescue operations.

The state weather bureau said Haiyan is expected to pass over the Philippines late on Saturday and then move into the South China Sea, where it could become even stronger and threaten Vietnam or China.