HOUSTON - Super Typhoon Haiyan barreled through the Central Philippines on Friday, leaving destruction and death in its wake.
The U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated its sustained winds at 195 miles per hour with gusts stronger than 235. Another more reliable Philippines-based agency recorded sustained winds at 147 mph.
Whatever the final number, devastation is extreme. Homes are destroyed. Trees and power lines are down across the hardest hit areas.
Nearly a million people were evacuated ahead of the storm, which reached Category 5 status while well East of the Philippines. That mass evacuation may be the reason the loss of life is so low, according to the early numbers being reported.
Early reports were that four were confirmed dead with that number expected to rise as communication to the heavily damaged areas are restored.
Haiyan moved at a relatively fast 35 miles per hour from East to West and that speed is credited with cutting the amount of rainfall and therefore flooding to the region.
In Houston, the Filipino Buffet on Bissonnet normally fills up on a Friday afternoon and on this day it was no different and all of the conversation was on that very destructive typhoon.
"I'm so scared. I just pray and I hope my family is OK and my brothers, my sisters, they're OK," said Meryjne Bnetaz, who has family near the hardest hit areas.
People from the Philippines say they are accustomed to typhoons. There were more than 20 this year alone but this one has been different.
"There were people who usually don't evacuate and don't heed what the government says," said Minda Borbon, the owner of the Filipino Buffet. "But this time they had to evacuate. They had no choice. This one is very dangerous!"
Teresa Billones is from the Negros Oriental Province and says the images she has seen on TV make it hard to watch.
"Of course we're worried about our friends and I still have family. Five cousins and their families and so far they are all OK," she said.
The only good news with Haiyan has been its fast forward speed which means less rain and less flooding but the wind has driven hundreds of thousands to safe shelter while many others are dealing with total devastation that will no doubt take many months if not years to recover.
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