More than 1200 killed by Typhoon Haiyan, Red Cross says
Storm flattens Philippine city of Tacloban, turns houses to rubble and destroys airport
A damaged airport is seen as residents wait for relief goods after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines. Photograph: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters
A still image showing vehicles stranded in a flooded street filled with debris after Typhoon Haiyan hit the central Philippine city of Tacloban. Photograph: Reuters/GMA
Vehicles that were washed away by floodwaters are seen at a rice field near the airport after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines. Photograph: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters
A resident walks past her collapsed house after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines. Photograph: Romeo Ranoco /Reuters
The Philippine Red Cross has estimated that more than 1,000 people were killed in the coastal city of Tacloban and at least 200 in hard-hit Samar province when one of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall slammed into the country.
Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross, said the numbers came from preliminary reports by Red Cross teams in Tacloban and Samar, among the most devastated areas hit by Typhoon Haiyan on Friday.
“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 said she expected a more exact number to emerge after a more precise counting of bodies on the ground in those regions.
The typhoon turned houses into rubble and levelling the airport in a surge of flood water and high wind, officials said this morning. The massive, fast-moving storm is now barrelling out of the Philippines towards Vietnam.
The category 5 “super typhoon” weakened to a category 4 today, though forecasters said it could strengthen again over the South China Sea on its course to hit Vietnam early tomorrow.
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 resume communications with officials in Tacloban, a city of about 220,000 that appeared to suffer the worst of the typhoon, but a government official estimated at least 100 were killed and 100 wounded.
“Bodies are lying on the street,” said captain John Andrews, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority.
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, suggesting the toll could be higher.
Television images showed residents of Tacloban, about 580km southeast of Manila, wading through flooded streets that were littered half-submerged cars.
Before communications were cut yesterday, city officials had reported heavy flooding. Mobile phone networks and most roads were cut off.
“Almost all houses were destroyed, many are totally damaged. Only a few are left standing,” said Major Rey Balido, a spokesman for the national disaster agency.
The city’s airport, which is close to the coast, was destroyed by huge waves and several soldiers based there were missing, a military officer said.
About a million people took shelter in 37 provinces after president Benigno Aquino appealed to those in the typhoon’s path to leave vulnerable areas.
Officials started evacuating residents from low-lying areas, coastlines and hilly villages as early as three days before the typhoon struck, helping to limit the loss of life, several officials said. But not all headed the call to evacuate.
“I saw those big waves and immediately told my neighbours to flee. We thought it was a tsunami,” said Floremil Mazo, a villager in southeastern Davao Oriental province.
Meteorologists said the impact may not have been as strong as feared because the storm was moving so quickly, reducing the risk of flooding and landslides from torrential rain, the biggest causes of typhoon casualties in the Philippines.
Ferry services and airports in the central Philippines remained closed, hampering aid deliveries to Tacloban, although the military said two C-130 transport planes managed to land at its airport today.
At least two people were killed on the tourist destination island of Cebu, radio reports said.
“I never thought the winds would be that strong that they could destroy my house,” LynLyn Golfan of Cebu said in a television interview while sifting through the debris.
By this afternoon, the typhoon was hovering 709 km west of San Jose, in southwestern Occidental Mindoro province, packing winds of a maximum 185kmh, with gusts of up to 220kmh.
The storm lashed the islands of Leyte and Samar with 275kmh wind gusts and 5-6 metre waves yesterday before scouring the northern tip of Cebu province. It weakened slightly as it moved west-northwest near the tourist island of Boracay, later hitting Mindoro island.