MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III rejected on Wednesday the projection that as many as 10,000 people might have perished in “supertyphoon Yolanda” (international name Haiyan), saying the death toll was closer to 2,500.
“Ten thousand, I think, is too much,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, saying “there was emotional trauma involved with that particular estimate quoting both a police official and a local government official.”
“They were too close to the incident. They didn’t have basis for it.”
“So far, 2,000 to about 2,500 is the figure we are working on as far as deaths are concerned,” he added, as the death toll hit 2,275 on Wednesday, based on the record of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Malacañang could not give a time frame on how soon the government could collect bodies left decomposing by the road in a number of Leyte towns.
“The bodies are being worked on,” Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said. “There was a report that the reason why the bodies [were] not being handled [was] because there was a lack of cadaver bags.”
Almendras said around 4,000 such bags had been brought to the disaster site, just to make sure that “there is an oversupply.” “I am not saying that the casualties are 4,000, okay?” he clarified.
The National Bureau of Investigation would be in charge of identifying the bodies, because the Philippine National Police has been “so busy in retrieval and clearing operations,” he said.
Forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun tweeted that authorities should “start with [the] systemic recovery of the dead.” “Do basic exam then temporary burials. No sense aiming for positive ID now,” she said.
As international aid continued to pour in, the President called for a “sense of responsibility” among nations to address the problem of climate change.
“Especially to [the] most-developed countries that are contributing immensely to the global warming, there has to be a sense of moral responsibility that what they wreak is playing havoc on the lives of so many others who are less capable of defending for themselves,” he told CNN.
Mr. Aquino was responding to chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who took note of the Philippine delegate’s “heartfelt plea for international help,” which also “lambasted the failure of the world to deal with climate change” during the United Nation’s climate talks in Poland last Monday.
“We all live in one planet. Either we come up with a solution that everybody adheres to and cooperates with or let us be prepared to meet disasters, ever increasing disasters on a global level,” said President Aquino, whose administration had been criticized for supposedly not putting climate change issues high in its agenda.
Mr. Aquino said his administration has been “trying to plan our communities whereby they are more resilient to all of those ravages of nature.”
“Right now, I think the challenge for us after the relief efforts will be to rebuild the houses of tens of thousands of families affected, quite a major outlay, and then the construction has to be better to withstand the ravages of this climate change,” he added.