Typhoon Haiyan currently lashing the Philippines is the strongest tropical cyclone on record to make landfall, according to US weather watchers.
Waves of up to six metres high have been reported; wind gusts have reached over 300 kilometres an hour.
There are fears that the number of casualties could rise substantially.
At least three people have been confirmed dead and seven injured, but the Red Cross said the humanitarian impact of the typhoon threatens to be colossal.
“I saw those big waves and immediately told my neighbours to flee. We thought it was a tsunami,” said one resident of the central Visayan islands.
One million people have fled their homes as their villages were flooded and battered. The authorities have warned that more than 12 million are at risk.
Schools are being used as emergency shelters, but some question whether even public buildings can withstand the winds.
Trees and cables have been brought brought down and many roads are impassable.
Communications in the three large islands of Samar, Leyte and Bohol were almost completely down but the authorities promised to restore them within 24 hours.
The governor of Samar province, Sharee Tan, said the whole of her province was without power. Fallen trees, toppled electric poles
and other debris blocked roads, she said.
Authorities suspended ferry services and fishing and shut 13 airports. Nearly 450 domestic, and eight international, flights were cancelled.
Meanwhile China has been bracing itself for Haiyan’s approach. The typhoon is expected to move past the Philippines on Saturday and out over the South China Sea.
Ships in surrounding waters have been warned to return to port.