philippines typhoon
People take cover under a tree as strong winds brought batter the Philippines' capital city Manila Reuters

The Philippines is on red alert as typhoon Hagupit batters eastern parts of the country with gusts of up to 130mph.

The typhoon made landfall on Saturday night in central eastern Samar province, with winds of 109mph knocking down power lines and toppling trees in the town of Dolores.

The Philippines' 120,000-strong military is on alert to deal with a possible humanitarian catastrophe, and 650,000 people have fled to safety – one of the largest evacuations in Filipino history, according to the UN.

Troops have also been deployed to supermarkets and major roads to prevent looting and to clear debris.

"We're on red alert, so the entire armed forces is being mobilised for this typhoon," said General Gregorio Pio Catapang.

Alexander Pama, administrator at the Office of Civil Defence, added: "We are not lowering our alert levels even if the typhoon has weakened.

"We will continue our instructions and disseminations in different regions until the state weather bureau does not advise us so. Preparations will continue at all levels."

Almost 100 domestic flights have been cancelled and inter-island ferry services have been suspended, leaving thousands of people stranded.

Scores of passengers were left grounded after Philippines Airlines and Cebu Pacific cancelled more than 150 flights to central and southern parts of the country on Friday and Saturday.

No casualties have yet been reported, but the typhoon is making its way to the city of Tacloban, where thousands of people were killed in last November's Typhoon Haiyan.

Eastern Samar province representative Ben Evardone said: "Everybody is in fear because of what happened during Haiyan. We can already feel the wrath of the typhoon. Everybody is praying."

Philippines President Benigno Aquino met disaster agency chiefs on Friday afternoon, and has ordered food supplies to be sent to affected areas.

Aquino said there is no indication as yet that Hagupit will be as strong at Haiyan, which was the most powerful typhoon ever recorded over land. It devastated huge swathes of central Philippines in November 2013, leaving more than 7,000 dead or missing.