Super typhoon

Thousands of villagers fled as the most powerful storm on the planet this year approached the Philippines on Thursday.

Super typhoon Haiyan had wind speeds of up to 170 mph and was rated as a category-five storm early Thursday, according to Weather Channel lead meteorologist Michael Palmer.

He warned that the storm was likely to cause widespread devastation and "a significant loss of life."

“It’s a very poor country and there is not really any place for these people to go because they are on an island," Palmer added. “There was a similar typhoon that struck in 1990 which killed 700 people so you are going to see that here, maybe even worse.”

Haiyan was moving toward the Philippines from the west in the Pacific Ocean and is expected to make landfall around noon local time on Friday (11 p.m. ET Thursday) between the central islands of Samar and Leyte.

“It is a perfectly symmetrical storm with the eye completely clear so it is as strong as you can get," Palmer said.

The U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii said it was the strongest tropical cyclone in the world this year.

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