TACLOBAN: One of the most powerful storms ever recorded killed at least 10,000 people in the central Philippines, a senior police official said today, with huge waves sweeping away coastal villages and devastating one of the main cities in the region.
Super typhoon Haiyan destroyed about 70 to 80 per cent of structures in its path as it tore through Leyte province on Friday, said police chief superintendent Elmer Soria, before weakening and heading west for Vietnam. As rescue workers struggled to reach ravaged villages along the coast, where the death toll is as yet unknown, survivors foraged
for food or searched for lost loved ones.
“People are walking like zombies looking for food,” said Jenny Chu, a medical student in Leyte. “It’s like a movie.”
Most of the deaths appear to have been caused by surging sea water strewn with debris that many said resembled a tsunami, levelling houses and drowning hundreds of people in one of the worst disasters to hit the typhoon-prone Southeast Asian nation.
The national government and disaster agency have not confirmed the latest estimate of deaths, a sharp increase from yesterday’s initial estimates of at least 1,200 killed by a storm whose sustained winds reached 313 km per hour with gusts of up to 235 mph (378 kph).
“We had a meeting last night with the governor and the other officials. The governor said, based on their estimate, 10,000 died,” Soria said.
About 300 people died in neighbouring Samar province, where Haiyan first hit land on Friday as a category 5 typhoon, with 2,000 missing, said an
official of the provincial disaster agency.
Nearly 480,000 people were displaced and 4.5 million “affected” by the typhoon in 36 provinces, the national disaster agency said, as relief agencies called for food, water, medicines and tarpaulins for the homeless.
International aid agencies said relief efforts in the
“From a helicopter, you can see the extent of devastation. From the shore and moving a kilometre inland, there are no structures standing. It was like a tsunami,” said Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas, who had been in Tacloban since before the typhoon struck the city.
“I don’t know how to describe what I saw. It’s horrific.”
Looters rampaged through several stores in Tacloban, witnesses said, taking whatever they could find as rescuers’ efforts to deliver food and water were hampered by severed roads and communications. A TV station said ATM machines were broken open.
Mobs attacked trucks loaded with food, tents and water on Tanauan bridge in Leyte, said Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon. “These are mobsters operating out of there.”
President Benigno Aquino said the government had deployed 300 soldiers and police to restore order and that he was considering introducing martial law or a state of emergency in Tacloban to ensure security.
“Tonight, a column of armoured vehicles will be arriving in Tacloban to show the government’s resolve and to stop this looting,” he said.
Aquino has shown exasperation at conflicting reports on damage and deaths and one TV network quoted him as telling the head of the disaster agency that he was running out of patience.
“How can you beat that typhoon?” said defence chief Voltaire Gazmin, when asked whether the government had been ill-prepared.