Mass Casualties Expected After Typhoon Haiyan Strikes the Philippines

One of the world's strongest storms head towards Vietnam

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Dennis M. Sabangan / EPA

Filipino villagers carrying their belongings during a heavy downpour walk past rubble of houses in the supertyphoon-devastated city of Tacloban, in the Philippines' Leyte province, on Nov. 10, 2013

One of the strongest typhoons on record devastated the Philippines on Friday, with the country’s Red Cross estimating that the overall death toll could reach at least 1,200.

As of Saturday morning, 138 people were confirmed dead, according to the Associated Press, but the toll is expected to rise as rescuers continue to sift through the rubble.

According to Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross, agency field staff in the hard-hit city of Tacloban, in the central Leyte province, estimated the death toll was about 1,000 in that area alone. Pang, however, emphasized that it was “just an estimate,” as the national disaster agency has yet to confirm a toll.

The category 5 typhoon caused widespread destruction in the Philippines, ravaging the archipelago east to west with sustained winds of 147 miles per hour and gusts of 170 mph when it made landfall — the equivalent of a strong category 4 hurricane in the United States.

The storm weakened to category 4 on Saturday, though it could strengthen in the South China Sea as it heads toward Vietnam, Reuters reports. Vietnamese authorities in four central provinces were evacuating more than 500,000 people from high-risk areas on Saturday as they braced for the storm, which is expected to make landfall on Sunday afternoon.

Haiyan is the second category 5 typhoon to slam the Philippines this year following Typhoon Usagi in September.

[Associated Press]