Super Typhoon Haiyan, this year’s most powerful cyclone, slammed into the central Philippines, killing at least three people, cutting power and communication lines and knocking down trees.

Two people died after being electrocuted, while one person was hit by lightning, said Major Rey Balido, a spokesman for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Seven people were injured and one is missing, according to the nation’s military. The death toll may rise, said Balido.

The Philippines was most affected by natural disasters in 2012, with more than 2,000 deaths, according to the Brussels- based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. Haiyan is the strongest tropical cyclone on record to make landfall, said Jeff Masters, founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan. President Benigno Aquino, who appealed for citizens to seek shelter before the storm, has ordered all government agencies to conduct search-and-rescue operations.

“In terms of power, this is really strong,” Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo said on DZMM radio, referring to Haiyan’s winds.

Haiyan slammed into the eastern province of Samar at 5 a.m., packing winds of 235 kilometers (146 miles) per hour and making landfall four more times since, the weather bureau said. Leyte, Samar and Bohol provinces are without electricity after transmission lines were toppled, the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines said. Parts of Cebu, Negros and Panay as well as Surigao del Norte and Sorsogon also experienced outages.

Storm Winds

Haiyan is “the strongest tropical cyclone on record to make landfall,” said Masters at Weather Underground. Using average estimates from the Philippine weather bureau and the Joint Typhoon Weather Center, Masters said the storm had winds of between 190 and 195 miles per hour at landfall.

While Manila, the Philippine capital, may not be directly hit by the storm, there may be strong winds and heavy rain, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority said on Twitter. People are encouraged to remain indoors, it said.

Haiyan is moving two times faster than an average cyclone at 40 kilometers an hour, the weather bureau said, forecasting that the super typhoon will move out of the Philippines by 10 a.m. tomorrow. Haiyan is expected to strike Vietnam next, according to the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno shut the courts in Metro Manila from noon. It was business as usual for other government agencies, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said. Financial markets operated today.

Damage Assessment

It’s difficult to assess the damage at this point because communication lines are down, Eduardo del Rosario, the head of the disaster-monitoring agency, told reporters in Manila. Communities are more cooperative now about evacuating due to previous disasters, he said.

Typhoon Haiyan’s total economic impact may reach $14 billion, with the insured portion probably almost $2 billion, according to a report by Jonathan Adams, a senior analyst at Bloomberg Industries, citing Kinetic Analysis Corp.

President Aquino “has directed all government agencies to conduct continuous search-and-rescue activities,” Coloma said. One of the priorities would be to restore power and communications, he said.

More than 125,000 people fled their homes and almost 2,000 were stranded in ports, the government said. The Philippines ordered evacuations from Nov. 6, with President Aquino appealing in a nationwide address yesterday for people to move to higher ground and seek safer shelters, warning of serious danger.

Catastrophic Damage

Heavy rain from storms usually causes the highest death tolls in the Philippines, Masters said. Flooding may not be the worst threat with Haiyan because of the speed at which it’s moving, he said. Still, high winds and storm surges have the potential to cause catastrophic damage, he said.

Aquino said that Haiyan may cause more damage than Storm Bopha, which killed 1,067 and left 834 missing when that cyclone triggered landslides in Mindanao in 2012. Typhoon Ketsana killed more than 400 when it swamped Manila and parts of Luzon in 2009. Storm Washi killed more than 1,200 people in December 2011.

The strongest tropical cyclone on record was Super Typhoon Nancy in 1961, which had top winds of 215 miles an hour, according to Masters. The strongest storm to hit land was Camille, which went ashore in Mississippi with winds near 195 mph, said Masters.

Inflation will remain within target this year even as the storm may push the costs of some commodities higher, according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo. The impact on rice prices may be limited as much has been harvested, he said in a mobile-phone message today.

More than 150 domestic and overseas flights were canceled as of noon, according to the Transportation Department. Ten airports were closed, the aviation authority said. Classes were suspended in 44 cities and municipalities, the government said.

–With assistance from Brian K. Sullivan in Boston and Max Estayo in Manila. Editors: Jake Lloyd-Smith, Yee Kai Pin