Saturday, November 9, 2013

Philippine Leader Fears 'Substantially' Higher Death Toll

At the Wall Street Journal, "Typhoon Death Toll to Rise 'Substantially': Philippine President: Haiyan Is the Strongest Tropical Cyclone to Strike the Philippines Since 1991":

MANILA—Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said Saturday that the death toll from supertyphoon Haiyan will be "substantially more" than officials have so far confirmed, a grim prediction as eyewitnesses reported bodies being pulled from rubble in one town where cars and trees had been tossed about.

Speaking at a televised news conference, the president declined to answer questions seeking an estimate of the number of people who had been killed.

The confirmed count is four, but one city—Tacloban, which has 220,000 residents—was hit especially hard, and one government official said at least 100 were dead. The Philippine National Red Cross said Saturday it received reports suggesting around 1,000 people died in Tacloban and about 200 in neighboring Samar province.

"It is only an estimate from the field, not validated," said Philippine Red Cross Secretary General Gwen Pang.

A Hong Kong-based cameraman and storm chaser who has been filming typhoons for nine years reported seeing dead bodies and looting in Tacloban.

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Tacloban city, in Leyte province, central Philippines Saturday. Associated Press

"There are people pulling bodies out of the rubble, basically," said James Reynolds from Cebu on Saturday.

Mr. Reynolds said he saw people looting drugstores and electronics stores.

"It's a lawless situation," he said. "It's only going to get worse because people are going to get hungrier or thirstier, and there's not enough aid getting in."

Supertyphoon Haiyan, which had the strength of a Category 5 hurricane, is headed to Vietnam, where it is expected to make landfall in the morning.

A mother and her son walked under damaged electric cables after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city. Reuters

The typhoon hit the eastern seaboard of the Philippines on Friday, with its heavy rain and winds uprooting trees, shredding homes, and causing five-yard high storm surges that flooded coastal towns.

"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 United Nations Disaster Assessment Coordination team.

"This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumble weeds, and the streets are strewn with debris ," he said, adding that relief efforts will be challenging because roads between the airport and the central city were "completely blocked." The U.N. team arrived in Tacloban on Saturday.
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