Manila One of the world’s strongest typhoons was feared to have killed more than 1,000 people in the Philippines, where it displaced hundreds of thousands and caused widespread devastation before blowing out towards Vietnam on Saturday.
Typhoon Haiyan tore through the eastern and central Philippines on Friday, flattening homes, toppling power lines and knocking out communications. Fierce winds ripped roofs off buildings as raging floodwaters swept debris and left vehicles piled on top of each other on the battered streets.
The official death toll was 138, according to the national disaster relief agency. But its spokesman, Reynaldo Balido, said the toll was expected to jump as reports trickle in from badly hit areas where communications have been destroyed.
Gwendolyn Pang, secretary-general of the Philippine Red Cross, said it was “estimated (that) over a 1,000 people died” in the eastern provinces of Leyte and Samar.
Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon confirmed that estimate, but added: “There are a lot of dead bodies. We haven’t counted them yet.
We are too busy to count. We are managing the dead bodies; we don’t want them scattered there.” Bodies were lying on the roads of Leyte’s capital city of Tacloban, according to Captain John Andrews, a deputy director-general of the civil aviation authority. Soldiers were also working on retrieving the dead, officials said.
Balido, of the disaster agency, said: “Yolanda brought massive damage and almost no houses were left standing,” referring to the typhoon’s Philippine name.
“Many were reported killed and we are trying to get initial numbers so we don’t get shocked by the increase.” Balido said nearly 800,000 people were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in emergency shelters, some of which were also damaged by the storm in Leyte.
“The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami,” Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, head of a United Nations disaster assessment coordination team said. “This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumbleweeds and the streets are strewn with debris.”
The Philippine military has been ferrying relief supplies, medicines and medical teams and rescue workers to the devastated areas via C130 planes and navy ships.
The shipments also included body bags.
“We have sent body bags so we can properly handle the cadavers on the streets,” said Eric Tayag, the under secretary for health. “We are looking for a place to bury the dead, maybe somewhere suitable for mass burials.”
In Taiwan, a rogue wave believed to have been triggered by Haiyan killed eight people and injured eight on Saturday in Gongliao township in New Taipei county on the north-eastern coast, Central News Agency reported.
Meteorologists said Haiyan is the largest typhoon in the world since Typhoon Tip in October 1979, which killed nearly 100 people in Japan and Guam.