A deadly storm has returned to the Philippines for the second time in a week as the country was lashed by Typhoon Haima with ferocious winds and rain, leaving at least four dead. Earlier, Typhoon Sarika caused heavy flooding in parts of the country.

Haima, locally known as Lawin, was upgraded from a storm to a super typhoon just before it struck and made landfall over Penablanca, Cagayan Province, in the northeast part of the island of Luzon late on Wednesday night (19 October) at around 11 pm local time (3 pm GMT).

It was thought to be potentially the most devastating typhoon to hit the country, but it packed slightly less force than feared. The storm was downgraded from category 5 to category 4 on Thursday (20 October) and made its way towards the South China Sea.

The Associated Press reported that at least four people were feared dead in Ifugao province, near Benguet in Luzon island. Two of them were construction workers who died when a landslide buried their shanty, while two other villagers were reported to have drowned in flood waters.

Over 10 million people were said to be within striking range of the typhoon in Luzon, forcing evacuation of the villagers to an emergency shelter.

"We can't go out because the wind is so intense, trees are being forced down," AP quoted local councillor Elisa Arugay from Camasi village in Penablanca as saying.

Authorities have issued warnings to the local residents of the island as Typhoon Haima is expected to bring fierce winds and storm surging up to 5 metres (16 ft) or higher. Slightly weaker but sustained winds of 205 km (127 miles) per hour and gusts of 285 km per hour (176 mph) were recorded on Thursday morning. It was raging northwest at 25 km per hour, according to forecasters.

The typhoon raised fears that Haima could be on par with the catastrophic Typhoon Haiyan which wreaked havoc on the Philippines in 2013, leaving more than 7,300 dead.

"We are possibly dealing with a typhoon that is even stronger than Typhoon Yolanda," said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, referring to the local name for Haiyan. "We must, therefore, brace ourselves for the possible effects of a typhoon of this magnitude."

President Rodrigo Duterte, who is on a visit to China, said that his government was taking all possible measures to evacuate people from the path of the storm. He urged Filipinos to pay heed to the orders of disaster agencies.

"We only pray we be spared the destruction such as the previous times, which brought agony and suffering," Duterte said. "But we are ready. Everything has been deployed."

The Philippines is still recovering from the powerful Typhoon Sarika that hit villages on 16 October, killing two people and leaving tens of thousands displaced.

Haima is the 12th typhoon to hit the country this year and an average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, and most of them are deadly.

Typhoon Haima
Evacuees from coastal villages take shelter inside an evacuation centre as Typhoon Haima, locally named Lawin, approaches, in Alcala town, Cagayan province, north of Manila REUTERS/Stringer