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Intense typhoon strikes Philippines

Debris floated on a flooded road as winds and rain battered buildings in Leyte province.

ABS-CBN via Reuters

Debris floated on a flooded road as winds and rain battered buildings in Leyte province.

MANILA — One of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded slammed into the Philippines early Friday, and one weather expert warned, ‘‘There will be catastrophic damage.’’

The US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center said shortly before Typhoon Haiyan’s landfall that the storm’s maximum sustained winds were 195 miles per hour, with gusts up to 235 miles per hour.

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‘‘There aren’t too many buildings constructed that can withstand that kind of wind,’’ said Jeff Masters, a former hurricane meteorologist who is meteorology director at the private firm Weather Underground.

Masters said the storm had been poised to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall. He warned of catastrophic damage.

Local authorities reported having troubles reaching colleagues in the landfall area.

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The local weather bureau had a lower reading on the storm’s power, saying its speed at landfall in Eastern Samar province’s Guiuan township had sustained winds at 147 per hour, with gusts of 170 miles per hour.

Authorities in Guiuan could not immediately be reached for word of any deaths or damage, regional civil defense chief Rey Gozon told DZBB radio. Forecaster Mario Palafox of the national weather bureau said the organization had lost contact with its staff in the landfall area.

The storm was not expected to directly hit the flood-prone capital, Manila, further north.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said more than 125,000 people had been evacuated from towns and villages in the typhoon’s path.

Typhoon Haiyan’s wind strength at landfall had been expected to beat out Hurricane Camille, which had winds of 195 miles per hour at landfall in the United States 1969, Masters said.

The only bright side is that Haiyan is a fast-moving storm, so flooding from heavy rain — which usually causes the most deaths from typhoons in the Philippines — may not be as bad, Masters said.

‘‘The wind damage should be the most extreme in Philippines history,’’ he said.

The storm later will be a threat to both Vietnam and Laos and is likely to be among the top five natural disasters for those countries, Masters said. The storm is forecast to barrel through the Philippines’ central region Friday and Saturday before blowing toward the South China Sea over the weekend, heading toward Vietnam.

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