Philippines Typhoon Haiyan killed at least 10,000 people in the central Philippines, a senior police official confirmed earlier in the day, adding that the disaster of enormous force is sweeping away villages along the coast and devastating the region’s main city.
The typhoon has already smashed about 70 to 80 percent the region, moving towards Leyte province on Friday, reported police chief superintendent Elmer Soria.
Reuters writes that rescue teams struggled to reach ravaged coastal villages, where the number of killed people is still unknown, while survivors were searching for food as supplies dwindled or searched for lost loved ones.
“People are walking like zombies looking for food,” said Jenny Chu, a medical student in Leyte. “It’s like a movie.”
According to reports, the majority of deaths were caused by surging sea water strewn with debris that many said resembled a tsunami that was and drowning hundreds of people in one of the worst natural disasters to hit the typhoon-prone Southeast Asian nation.
“The rescue operation is ongoing. We expect a very high number of fatalities as well as injured,” said Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. “All systems, all vestiges of modern living — communications, power, water — all are down. Media is down, so there is no way to communicate with the people in a mass sort of way.”
President Benigno Aquino III told reporters that the casualties “will be substantially more,” but gave no figure or estimate.
He insisted that the government’s top aim was to restore power and communications in isolated areas to allow for the delivery medical assistance to those who were hurt by the disaster.
The Philippine Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations were preparing for a major relief effort “because of the magnitude of the disaster,” said the agency’s chairman, Richard Gordon.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the country’s president was “speechless” when he learned of the caused damaged and devastation the typhoon had wrought in Tacloban.
“I told him all systems are down,” Gazmin said. “There is no power, no water, nothing. People are desperate. They’re looting.”
Mila Ward, a Filipino-born, was on vacation in Leyte when the storm hit the country. The woman said she saw hundreds of bodies on the streets.
“They were covered with blankets, plastic. There were children and women,” she said.
The U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said aerial surveys showed “significant damage to coastal areas with heavy ships thrown to the shore, many houses destroyed and vast tracts of agricultural land decimated”.
Witnesses claim that there were five bodies inside a chapel near the airport. Airport manager Efren Nagrama, 47, confirmed to reporters that water levels rose up to four meters (13 feet).
“It was like a tsunami. We escaped through the windows and I held on to a pole for about an hour as rain, seawater and wind swept through the airport,” he said. “Some of my staff survived by clinging to trees. I prayed hard all throughout until the water subsided.”