MANILA, Philippines -- One of the strongest storms on record slammed into the central Philippines, killing more than 100 people whose bodies lay in the streets of one of the hardest-hit cities, an official said Saturday.
Capt. John Andrews, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said more than 100 others were injured in the city of Tacloban on Leyte Island, where Typhoon Haiyan hit Friday.
With power and most communications knocked out a day after the typhoon ravaged the central region, Andrew told The Associated Press that the information about the deaths was relayed to him by his staff in Tacloban.
"The information is reliable," he said.
Nearly 750,000 people were forced to flee their homes and damage was believed to be extensive.
Measurements of the typhoon varied, with some weather officials saying Haiyan had sustained winds of 147 mph and others putting the speed as high as 196 mph.
Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are the same thing. They are just called different names in different parts of the world.
Because of cut-off communications in the Philippines, it was impossible to know the full extent of casualties and damage.
Southern Leyte Gov. Roger Mercado said the typhoon ripped roofs off houses and triggered landslides that blocked roads.
The dense clouds and heavy rains made the day seem almost as dark as night, he said.
"When you're faced with such a scenario, you can only pray, and pray and pray," Mercado said, adding that mayors in the province had not called in to report any major damage.
"I hope that means they were spared and not the other way around," he said. "My worst fear is there will be massive loss of lives and property."
Eduardo del Rosario, head of the disaster response agency, said the speed at which the typhoon sliced through the central islands -- 25 mph -- helped prevent its 375-mile band of rain clouds from dumping enough of their load to overflow waterways. Flooding from heavy rains is often the main cause of deaths from typhoons.
"It has helped that the typhoon blew very fast in terms of preventing lots of casualties," regional military commander Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda said. He said the massive evacuation of villagers before the storm also saved many lives.
The Philippines, which is hit by about 20 typhoons and storms a year, has in recent years become more serious about preparations to reduce deaths. Public service announcements are frequent, as are warnings by the president and high-ranking officials that are regularly carried on radio and TV and social networking sites.
President Benigno Aquino III assured the public of warlike preparations, with three C-130 air force cargo planes and 32 military helicopters and planes on standby, along with 20 navy ships. As relief workers began assessing the damage, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that America stood ready to help. "Having so recently had my own visit to the Philippines prevented by another powerful storm, I know that these horrific acts of nature are a burden that you have wrestled with and courageously surmounted before. Your spirit is strong," Kerry said in a statement. Among the evacuees were thousands of residents of Bohol who had been camped in tents and other makeshift shelters since a magnitude-7.2 earthquake hit the island province last month. Relief workers said they were struggling to find ways to deliver food and other supplies, with roads blocked by landslides and fallen trees. World weather experts were calling the typhoon one of the strongest tropical cyclones on record at the time it hit land, but not quite the windiest. There were disputes over just how strong it is because of differences in the way storms are measured. "In terms of the world I don't think it's the strongest," said Taoyang Peng, a tropical cyclone scientist at the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva. But he added that "it is one of the strongest typhoons to make landfall" and probably the strongest to hit the Philippines. The U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center put Haiyan's sustained winds at 196 mph just minutes before it made landfall Thursday, which would be a world record. However, officials in Tokyo and the Philippines put the wind speed at about 147 mph. Peng said his group considers Tokyo the authority in this case because it's the closest regional center to the storm.