'Yolanda' accelerates, signal number 4 up over parts of E. Visayas

(UPDATED 8:20 p.m.) Typhoon Yolanda, which weather forecasters said is the strongest storm to hit the country this year, has accelerated as it targets the Eastern Visayas region after entering the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) around midnight Thursday.

It is expected to make landfall by 5:00 a.m. Friday in the Samar-Leyte area.

According to weather bureau PAGASA, the typhoon was last spotted 453 kilometers southeast of Guiuan, Eastern Samar. It has maximum sustained winds of 215 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 250 kilometers per hour, moving west northwest at 33 kilometers per hour.

PAGASA said after hitting Guiuan, Yolanda is expected to traverse the provinces of Leyte, Biliran, Northern tip of Cebu, Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, Romblon, Semirara Island, Southern part of Mindoro then Busuanga. It is forecast to exit the Philippine landmass and move towards the West Philippine Sea Saturday morning.

The rarely-used Public Storm Warning Signal number 4 is now raised over Eastern Samar, Samar, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Biliran Island, extreme northern Cebu, Bantayan Island, Capiz, Aklan and Northern Antique. These areas could expect winds of more than 185 kilometers per hour in at least 12 hours.

Public Storm Warning Signal number 3 meanwhile is now raised over Masbate, Ticao Island, Sorsogon and Romblon in Luzon; Northern Samar, Calamian Group, rest of Antique, Iloilo, Guimaras, Northern Negros Occidental, Northern Negros Oriental, Northern Cebu and Bohol in Visayas; and Siargao Island and Dinagat Province in Mindanao.

Albay, Burias Island, Marinduque, Mindoro and Northern Palawan in Luzon were placed under storm signal number 2, along with the rrest of Negros Oriental, rest of Negros Occidental, rest of Cebu, Camiguin and Siquijor in Visayas; and Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Norte in Mindanao.

Signal number 1 was also raised over Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Southern Quezon, Laguna, Rizal, Cavite, Batangas, Lubang Island, rest of Northern Palawan, Bataan and Metro Manila in Luzon; and Misamis Oriental and Agusan del Sur in Mindanao.

Estimated rainfall is at 10-30 millimeters per hour, classified as heavy to intense, within the 600 kilometer diameter of the typhoon.

Sea travel is considered risky over the northern and eastern seaboards of Northern Luzon and over the eastern seaboard of Central Luzon.

Areas under storm signals 1 through 4 are alerted against flashfloods and landslides. Those living in coastal areas under signals 3 and 2 are alerted against storm surges with waves reaching 7 meters in height

While Metro Manila will not be directly hit by Yolanda, the rain bands of the typhoon will bring light to moderate rains in the area starting Friday afternoon until Saturday.

In a report from ABS-CBN News’ Bettina Magsaysay, PAGASA could also raise storm warning signals in provinces outside of Visayas, including in Metro Manila, because of the wide diameter of the typhoon.

Many provinces also suspended classes today due to typhoon Yolanda.

According to the Department of Education (DepEd), class were suspended in Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, Northern Samar, Romblon, Southern Leyte, Surigao del Norte, Compostella Valley, Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, Catbalogan City, Northern Samar, Dumagete City, Negros Oriental, Sorsogon, Bicol Region, and Davao Del Norte.

Cebu, Cagayan De Oro, Caraga Region, and Naga City, Camarines Sur, and Sorsogon in Bicol have already declared suspension of classes in all levels, for both private and public schools, until Friday.

Floods and landslides are expected in areas along the track of Yolanda.

PAGASA earlier said they might have to raise the rarely-used signal number 4, warning that Yolanda has very strong winds, powerful enough to uproot large trees, topple electric posts and tear off roofs from houses.

The weather bureau also said Yolanda will be stronger than Typhoon Pablo, which killed more than a thousand people in parts of Mindanao and Visayas last year.

Forced evacuation was implemented last night in coastal towns in Tacloban City in anticipation of the typhoon, ABS-CBN's Sharon Evite reported.

ABS-CBN's Thea Omelan meanwhile said Albay Governor Joey Salceda earlier advised residents to move to and take shelter in bigger houses that could withstand the winds Yolanda is expected to bring.

Yolanda is the 24th storm to hit the Philippines this year.

Visit ABS-CBN’s Weather Center for updates.