Filipino authorities lower typhoon Haiyan death toll

Number who died now placed at 2500 according to president Aquino

Forensic investigators from the Philippine National Police have begun the task of identifying Typhoon Haiyan's victims. More than a hundred body bags lined a cordoned area across the Tacloban city hall. Tacloban bore the brunt of the super typhoon.

 

The death toll from the massive typhoon that hit the Philippines is closer to 2,000 or 2,500, not the previously reported figure of 10,000, President Benigno Aquino told CNN today.

“Ten thousand, I think, is too much,” Mr Aquino said in an interview posted on CNN’s website.

He said local officials who provided that estimate may have been too close to the destruction to give an accurate figure.

“There was emotional drama involved with that particular estimate,” he said. Mr Aquino told CNN the government is still gathering information from various storm-struck areas.

“We’re hoping to be able to contact something like 29 municipalities left wherein we still have to establish their numbers, especially for the missing, but so far 2,000, about 2,500, is the number we are working on as far as deaths are concerned,” he said.

Mr Aquino’s comments came as international aid groups, as well as the United States and Britain, scramble to accelerate relief efforts after Friday’s super typhoon Haiyan, one of the fiercest on record.

Philippine officials have been overwhelmed by the destruction from the storm, which hit the central part of the string of islands and flattened Tacloban, the coastal capital of Leyte province. Officials there initially said they feared 10,000 people had died

Meanwhile desperate survivors are pleading for food, water and medicine as rescue workers take on a daunting task.

John Ging, director of operations at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said “many places are strewn with dead bodies” that need to be buried quickly to prevent the outbreak of a public health disaster.

“We’re sadly expecting the worst as we get more and more access,” Mr Ging told reporters at the United Nations in New York.

Typhoon Haiyan packed 235km/h winds and whipped up 7 metre walls of seawater that tossed ships inland and swept many people out to sea.

With shattered communications and transportation links, the final death toll is likely to be days away, and presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said “we pray” it does not surpass 10,000.

Authorities said at least 9.7 million people in 41 provinces were affected by the typhoon, likely the deadliest natural disaster to beset the country.

Philippine soldiers were distributing food and water, and assessment teams from the United Nations and other international agencies were seen for the first time yesterday.

A US aircraft carrier set sail for the Philippines today to accelerate relief efforts. The USS George Washington carries 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft has left Hong Kong and is expected to arrive in two days. Four other US Navy ships have also set sail for the disaster zone.

“The weather is pretty bad out there, so we are limited by seas and wind,” Captain Thomas Disy, commander of the USS Antietam, a missile cruiser that’s part of the carrier group, told reporters in Hong Kong. “But we are going to be going as fast as we possibly can.”

Britain is also sending a navy warship with equipment to make drinking water from seawater and a military transport aircraft,

Authorities said they had evacuated 800,000 people ahead of the typhoon, but many evacuation centres proved to be no protection against the wind and rising water. The Philippine National Red Cross, responsible for warning the region and giving advice, said people were not prepared for a storm surge.

Haiyan hit the eastern seaboard of the Philippines on Friday and quickly barreled across its central islands, with winds that gusted to 272km/h. It inflicted serious damage to at least six islands in the middle of the eastern seaboard.

It had weakened to a tropical storm by the time it crossed into southern China yesterday, but it still had gusts up to 100km/h and dropped up to 15in of rain over some parts of Guangxi province.

Hardest hit was the southern island of Hainan, where the storm wrenched a cargo ship from its moorings. Three bodies were recovered and four crew members remain missing, China National Radio said.

Four other people in Hainan have been confirmed dead, including two hit by falling objects, according to China National Radio, which said the storm caused up to $700 million in damage to agricultural, forestry, poultry and fishing industries.

Another victim drowned in Guangxi, China News Service reported.

Authorities in Vietnam evacuated hundreds of thousands of people, but there were no reports of significant damage or injuries.

Agencies