9 November 2013, 18:47

"Massive destruction" as typhoon kills at least 1,200 in Philippines - Red Cross

"Massive destruction" as typhoon kills at least 1,200 in Philippines - Red Cross

One of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall devastated the central Philippines, killing more than 1,000 people in one city alone and 200 in another province, the Red Cross estimated on Saturday, as reports of high casualties began to emerge.

A day after Typhoon Haiyan churned through the Philippine archipelago in a straight line from east to west, rescue teams struggled to reach far-flung regions, hampered by washed out roads, many choked with debris and fallen trees.

The death toll is expected to rise sharply from the fast-moving storm, whose circumference eclipsed the whole country and which late on Saturday was heading for Vietnam.

Among the hardest hit was coastal Tacloban in central Leyte province, where preliminary estimates suggest more than 1,000 people were killed, said Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross, as water surges rushed through the city.

"An estimated more than 1,000 bodies were seen floating in Tacloban as reported by our Red Cross teams," she told Reuters. "In Samar, about 200 deaths. Validation is ongoing."

She expected a more exact number to emerge after a more precise counting of bodies on the ground in those regions.

Witnesses said bodies covered in plastic were lying on the streets. Television footage shows cars piled atop each other.

"The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami," said Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, head of the U.N. Disaster Assessment Coordination Team sent to Tacloban, referring to the 2004 earthquake and tsunami.

"This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumbleweed and the streets are strewn with debris."

The category 5 "super typhoon" weakened to a category 4 on Saturday, though forecasters said it could strengthen again over the South China Sea en route to Vietnam.

Authorities in 15 provinces in Vietnam have started to call back boats and prepare for possible landslides. Nearly 300,000 people were moved to safer areas in two provinces alone - Da Nang and Quang Nam - according to the government's website.

The Philippines has yet to restore communications with officials in Tacloban, a city of about 220,000. A government official estimated at least 100 were killed and more than 100 wounded, but conceded the toll would likely rise sharply.

The national disaster agency has yet to confirm the toll but broken power poles, trees, bent tin roofs and splintered houses littered the streets of the city about 580 km (360 miles) southeast of Manila.

'Hundreds' likely killed by Typhoon in Philippines - government

A super typhoon is likely to have killed hundreds of people in and around one Philippine town, a government minister who toured the area said Saturday.

- Strongest tropical typhoon Haiyan hits Philippines (PHOTO)

"I think hundreds," Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said on ABS-CBN television when asked how many people had died in the coastal town of Palo and surrounding villages that he visited on devastated Leyte island.

Philippines says at least 100 dead from typhoon Haiyan

At least 100 people may have died in the Philippines from the impact of super typhoon Haiyan, a senior government official said on Saturday.

Bodies were lying in the streets, according to an initial report from an aviation officer in the central city of Tacloban, said Captain John Andrews, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.

Haiyan, possibly the strongest storm ever to hit land, was barrelling out of the Philippines after having flattened houses, triggered landslides and floods and knocked out power and communications across a number of islands.


Super typhoon in Philippines: 'no communication, no power in some areas'

Estelle Winters

"The latest report from our disaster office really shows us a low count in terms of casualty. They’ve reported three deaths and seven injuries. But those are preliminary numbers. And the problem right now is that there is no communication in some of the areas and there is no power," Cris Larano, author and journalist covering the events in the Philippines, told The Voice of Russia.

Cris, can you paint us a picture, please, of what things are looking like where you are? And how do the casualties sum up at the moment, please?

They’ll probably get a better picture of what really transpired for the whole of Friday, probably, later tonight or early tomorrow morning. But they are hopeful that this casualty count won’t actually increase because of the preemptive evacuation that has been done. Almost 700 000 people have been evacuated over the last few days and placed in government shelters, so that they will be safe from this super typhoon.

Do you yourself feel safe?

Yes, in Metro Manila there are just some light rains. The wind actually is not as strong as it was in some of the areas in central Philippines.

Haiyan has already been described as the largest ever recorded typhoon. Do you agree with that?

Based on the records of our local weather bureau, according to them this is in fact the strongest to make landfall in the Philippines in the last 20 years or so. In 1991 we had a typhoon that made landfall and it had sustained winds of about 250 km in hour. But even then the death count was about just 12 after actually, from landslides, mud and flashfloods.

There are some storm-proof shelters, I believe, in Manila, aren’t there?

Yes, but the problem is that the wind is so strong. The reports initially said that it has unrooted trees, storm surges caused flooding in some of the towns, it blew off roofs from houses, a lot of the roads are impassable because of the trees that have been toppled by the storm. There will be lots of damage, but hopefully the dead count and the number of injured won’t be as high as in storms in the last few years.

How long do you think it will take to clear up all the debris from this disaster?

That should take a few days, if it is just trees. But as long as it is not as devastating as an earthquake, then the rehabilitation would be easier. Just last month we had an earthquake and they are still rehabilitating much of the place and it is actually in Bohol – it is one of the areas that has been partly affected by this storm. But we are receiving reports that there is no major damage in Bohol so far.

And all the people who have been evacuated, are they comfortable in these government facilities? Have you heard any reports about that?

Considering the situation I think they are, but, obviously these aren’t really built hotels actually. These are gymnasiums, schools that are not really meant to be places where people would stay for a long time actually. But there are reports in some of the provinces that many people in evacuation centers are actually returning to their homes as the weather clears. Whether they will have homes to return to, that’s another question that we haven’t heard any answer to for the last few hours.

Voice of Russia, Reuters, AFP

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