MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Super Typhoon "Yolanda" slightly weakened but gained speed as it is expected to leave the Philippine landmass on Friday night, the state weather bureau PAGASA said.
As of 1 p.m., the eye of the typhoon was at the vicinity of Cuartero, Capiz with maximum sustained winds of 200 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 230 kph.
Yolanda, considered as the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year, has already made five landfalls, the latest of which was over Concepcion, Iloilo around noon.
Heavy to intense rainfall amount (10 to 20 millimeters per hour) was estimated within the 400-kilometer diameter out of 600-kilometer diameter of the typhoon, which has made four landfalls so far.
PAGASA said Yolanda is forecast to move west northwest at 40 kph and will hit Panay Island between 12 noon and 1 p.m.
It will then pass in the southern part of Mindoro between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. and exit the Philippine landmass around 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., moving toward the West Philippine Sea.
As Yolanda continues to traverse the Visayas, several areas remain under public storm warning signals.
PAGASA said these areas are alerted against possible flashfloods and landslides whole coastal areas are warned against storm surges that may reach up to seven meters in height.
Signal No. 4
Southern Occidental Mindoro
Southern Oriental Mindoro
Calamian Group of Island
Northern Negros Occidental
Signal No. 3
Rest of Occidental Mindoro
Rest of Oriental Mindoro
Puerto Princesa City
Rest of Cebu
Rest of Negros Occidental
Signal No. 2
Rest of Palawan
Surigao del Norte
Signal No. 1
Rest of Quezon including
Surigao del Sur
Agusan del Norte
Visayas bears grunt of Yolanda's wrath
After hitting Guiuan on the southern tip of Samar island, the typhoon pummeled nearby Leyte island.
"I think this is the strongest so far since the 1960s," Southern Leyte Gov. Roger Mercado said on ABS-CBN television. "This is really a wallop. All roads are impassable due to fallen trees."
A reporter for the network in the Tacloban city was drenched in the pounding rain and said he was wearing a helmet as protection against flying debris. Visibility was so poor that only his silhouette could be seen through the thick curtain of water.
Television images showed a street under knee-deep floodwater carrying debris that had been blown down by the fierce winds. Tin roofing sheets ripped from buildings were flying above the street.
Weather forecaster Gener Quitlong said the typhoon was not losing much of its strength because there is no large land mass to slow it down since the region is comprised of islands with no tall mountains.
Officials in Cebu province have shut down electric service to the northern part of the province to avoid electrocutions in case power pylons are toppled, said assistant regional civil defense chief Flor Gaviola. - with Jim Gomez, Oliver Teves, Teresa Cerojano, Seth Borenstein (Associated Press)