MANILA, Philippines—Rescuers in Tacloban City in Leyte counted at least 100 dead and many more injured Saturday a day after one of the most powerful typhoons on record ripped through the central Philippine province, wiping away buildings and leveling seaside homes in massive storm surges, then headed for Vietnam.
With communications and roads still cut off, Captain John Andrews, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said he had received “reliable information” by radio from his staff that more than 100 bodies were lying in the streets of Tacloban on hardest-hit Leyte Island.
Armed Forces Central Command spokesman Lieutenant Jim Alagao, quoting reports from soldiers on the ground, said “too many” bodies lay in the streets and that the city was a scene of “total devastation.”
He said he could not say how many people died in the storm in Leyte alone, one of five islands where Typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) slammed Friday.
‘They’re too many’
“There’s no number yet. But they’re too many,” Alagao told INQUIRER.net.
He said soldiers were having a hard time retrieving bodies as fallen trees and toppled posts block the roads.
Regional military commander Lieutenant General Roy Deveraturda said that the casualty figure “probably will increase,” after viewing aerial photographs of the widespread devastation caused by the typhoon.
Andrews said the airport in Tacloban City, about 580 kilometers south of Manila, “is completely ruined” by storm surges, forcing aviation authorities to close the terminal for commercial flights.
“The terminal, the tower, including communication equipment, were destroyed,” he said, as he recounted the airport manager’s assessment.
The runway was cleared early Saturday to make way for C-130s planes of the Philippine Air Force which delivered relief goods and carried emergency personnel, he said.
Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, a senior aide to President Benigno Aquino III, said that the number of casualties could not be immediately determined, but that the figure was “probably in that range” given by Andrews. Government troops were helping recover bodies, he said.
US Marine Colonel Mike Wylie, who surveyed the damage in Tacloban prior to possible American assistance, said that the damage to the runway was significant. Military planes were still able to land with relief aid.
“The storm surge came in fairly high and there is significant structural damage and trees blown over,” he told the Associated Press. Wylie is a member of the US-Philippines Military Assistance Group based in Manila.
Storm surges more than 10 feet had pounded the area, the Philippine Red Cross said.
In scenes reminiscent of tsunami damage, some houses in Tacloban, with a population of about 220,000 people, were completely destroyed, with piles of splintered wood lying on concrete slabs, while others had just the stone frames remaining.
Almost all the trees and electric posts were torn down, while cars were overturned.
Some dazed and injured survivors wandered around the carnage asking journalists for water, while others sorted through what was left of their destroyed homes.
Fears of mass casualties
The initial reports from Tacloban and Palo raised fears of mass casualties, with Haiyan having devastated many other communities across the central Philippines that remained cut off from communications.
“We have reports of collapsed buildings, houses flattened to the ground, storm surges and landslides,” Philippine Red Cross chief Gwendolyn Pang told AFP, giving an assessment across the whole region.
“But we don’t know really, we can’t say how bad the damage is… hopefully today we can get a better picture as to the effects of the super typhoon.”
Another area of concern was Guiuan, a fishing town of about 40,000 people on Samar that was the first to be hit after Haiyan swept in from the Pacific Ocean. Pang said contact had not yet been made with Guiuan.
She also said relief workers were trying reach Capiz province, about 200 kilometres west of Tacloban, on Panay island where she said most of the region’s infrastructure had been destroyed and many houses “flattened to the ground”.
Fifteen thousand soldiers had been deployed to the disaster zones, military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala told AFP.
“We are flying sorties to bring relief goods, materials and communication equipment,” Zagala said.
He said helicopters were also flying rescuers into priority areas, while infantry units deployed across the affected areas were also proceeding on foot or in military trucks.
Ferocious winds felled large branches and snapped coconut trees. A man was shown carrying the body of his six-year-old daughter who drowned, and another image showed vehicles piled up in debris.
Nearly 800,000 people were forced to flee their homes and damage was believed to be extensive. About 4 million people were affected by the typhoon, the national disaster agency said.
Relief workers said they were struggling to find ways to deliver food and other supplies, with roads blocked by landslides and fallen trees.
In western Palawan province, disaster officials said three fishermen died in Coron town after jumping off their anchored boat which was battered by big waves. One fisherman survived.
Weather officials said Yolanda had sustained winds of 235 kilometers per hour with gusts of 275 kph when it made landfall. By those measurements, Yolanda would be comparable to a strong Category 4 hurricane in the US, nearly in the top category, a 5.
Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are the same thing. They are just called different names in different parts of the world.
The typhoon’s sustained winds weakened Saturday to 163 kph with stronger gusts as it blew farther away from the Philippines toward Vietnam.
Vietnamese authorities in four central provinces began evacuating more than 500,000 people from high risk areas to government buildings, schools and other concrete homes able to withstand strong winds.
“The evacuation is being conducted with urgency and must be completed before 5 p.m.,” disaster official Nguyen Thi Yen Linh by telephone from central Danang City, where some 76,000 are being moved to safety.
Hundreds of thousands of others were being taken to shelters in the provinces of Quang Ngai, Quang Nam and Thua Thien Hue. Schools were closed and two deputy prime ministers were sent to the region to direct the preparations.
The typhoon was forecast to make landfall around 10 a.m. Sunday between Danang and Quang Ngai and move up the northeast coast of Vietnam.
Originally posted at 10:27 am |Saturday, November 9, 2013