Thousands of people are feared dead in the Philippines as a result of one of the worst typhoons ever to hit the archipelago. The resulting destruction is making it difficult for rescuers to reach the affected areas.
“We had a meeting last night with the governor and based on the government’s estimates, initially there are 10,000 casualties (dead),” Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria told reporters in Tacloban, the capital of Leyte province early on Sunday. “The devastation is so big.”
He said Governor Dominic Petilla’s figure was based on reports from village officials. The city administrator in Tacloban, Tecson Lim told the Associated Press that 300 to 400 bodies had already been recovered there.
Tacloban bore the brunt of Haiyan, a category 5 typhoon, which barreled into the Philippines on Friday, crossing the country from east to west in a matter of hours.
Earlier, the Philippine Red Cross had estimated that at least 1,000 had died in Leyte and the nearby province of Samar. However, they also stressed that volunteers had not yet had the chance to count the bodies that they were helping to retrieve.
“There are a lot of dead bodies. We haven’t counted them yet. We are too busy to count,” the DPA news agency quoted Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon as saying.
“We are managing the dead bodies, we don’t want them scattered there,” he added.
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas, who traveled to Tacloban on Saturday to survey the situation, said earlier that the devastation in the region meant it was still too far early to compile a reliable death toll.
“The rescue operation is ongoing. We expect a very high number of fatalities as well as injured,” he said. “All systems, all vestiges of modern living – communications, power, water – all are down. Media is down, so there is no way to communicate with the people in a mass sort of way.”
The Leyte governor’s figures, as well as the Red Cross estimates contrast sharply with the official confirmed death toll.
President Benigno Aquino said the government was certain that the final death toll would be “be substantially more” than the current official count of 151, but declined to estimate what that might be.
Despite a death toll that may reach into the thousands, it’s thought that many more could have been killed. Philippine authorities had evacuated almost 800,000 people from their homes in advance of the typhoon.
As emergency services and aid agencies worked to rescue survivors and repair the damage on Sunday, people in Vietnam were braced for Haiyan to make landfall there.
pfd/mr (AFP, AP, dpa)