By Beh Lih Yi
JAKARTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Aid agencies were on standby on Wednesday to respond to the strongest typhoon to threaten the Philippines in three years, which was due to make landfall later in the day with widespread damage expected.
Typhoon Haima has been labeled a category 5 storm on a scale of 1 to 5 by Tropical Storm Risk and could cause flooding, landslides and storm surges of up to five meters (16.5 ft), the weather bureau said.
The Philippine authorities have raised storm warning signals for the northern and eastern parts of main island of Luzon, and ordered evacuation with some flights suspended and sea travel banned.
Save the Children said it has stockpiles of relief items - including emergency shelter kits, hygiene kits, water and sanitation items - which are kept in warehouses and ready to be dispatched.
"Typhoon Haima is bearing down on the northern Philippines and looks capable of causing significant damage to homes, and community infrastructure," the aid agency's country director for the Philippines Ned Olney said.
"With such powerful winds and many homes situated along the coast, the potential for damage is high."
Olney said the children's charity was concerned about the impact of the storm on children, who are particularly vulnerable during emergencies.
The Philippine Red Cross said its staff and emergency response teams have been placed on "high alert" and are ready to deploy as Haima could have "significant humanitarian impact" if it continues on its projected course.
The aid agency was working with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to ready tarpaulins, blankets, sleeping mats and other essentials for 20,000 families.
Typhoon Haima poses a serious threat to local food security, as Central Luzon is where most of the country's rice is grown.
"The country's major river and catch basins are also located in Luzon, which could overflow if heavy rains continue," the IFRC said in a statement.
Children's charity Plan International also said it was on standby to families in the typhoon's path were given food, shelter, clean water and basic sanitation as quickly as possible.
Haima was approaching the Philippines with maximum sustained winds of 225kph and gusts of 315kph, according to weather officials.
The Philippines is one of the most disaster-hit countries in the world, suffering an average of 20 major typhoons each year. Haima is the 12th typhoon to hit the Southeast Asian nation this year.
Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the central Philippines in 2013 and killed at least 6,000 people.
(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)