An estimated 10,000 people might have been killed in the central Philippine province of Leyte alone, which was almost completely destroyed by the powerful typhoon Haiyan, local authorities said.
The typhoon has devastated up to 80 percent of the Leyte province area as it ripped through the Philippines, Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria told Reuters.
“We had a meeting last night with the governor and other officials. The governor said based on their estimate, 10,000 died,” Soria said.
Most of the dead drowned or were killed by collapsed buildings, authorities say. Tacloban city administrator Tecson Lim told AP that the death toll in Leyte province city alone “could go up to 10,000.”
Police have been deployed to patrol the ruins of Tacloban to prevent looting as desperate residents look for food and water, said Philippine Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, describing the situation as“horrific.”
“The dead are on the streets, they are in their houses, they are under the debris, they are everywhere,” said Lim, adding that only about 400 bodies have been recovered so far.
The Red Cross said earlier that 1,200 people we confirmed dead in the Philippines.
Roxas said earlier on Saturday that it was too soon to announce any final figures.
“The rescue operation is ongoing. We expect a very high number of fatalities as well as injured,” Roxas told AP. “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.”
Across Leyte on Samar Island, at least 300 people have been killed and another 2,000 are missing, Leo Dacaynos of Samar province’s disaster office told AP.
The storm weakened on Saturday after moving away from the Philippines toward Vietnam.
Vietnamese authorities meanwhile evacuated over 500,000 people to safer areas in preparation for the tumult which is forecast to make a landfall on Sunday afternoon.
‘International relief effort mission’
On Saturday Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said the casualties “will be substantially more,”than initially feared but gave no official figure. The priority for the government he said was to restore communications and power in remote areas and to deliver relief and medical assistance to families.
The Philippine Red Cross is preparing for a relief mission “because of the magnitude of the disaster,” says Richard Gordon, the agencies head.
But logistically speaking getting aid to the devastated regions of Leyte, 560 km from the capital could be difficult as the airport was destroyed.
Russia’s emergencies ministry has offered to help by providing search and rescue personal and a mobile hospital.
“If necessary, we will fly two planes to the Philippines with an operational group of 50 people,” Russian Emergencies Ministry spokeswoman Irina Rossius told Itar-Tass. But that figure later changed to 200 rescuers, if the request is made, said the Ministry, adding that “among them are six dog teams intended for rescue work in collapsed buildings,” said Irina Rossius, a representative of the Ministry.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Washington “stands ready to help.” In the meantime the US navy is assessing the extent of the damage on the ground.
The UN will also be involved in the relief effort, the UN Disaster Coordination Team (UNDAC) has arrived in the city of Tacloban.
“The United Nations agencies in the Philippines, with their humanitarian partners, are supporting the Government and other responders in their efforts to assess the situation and respond rapidly with vital supplies, through the coordination system led by the local authorities,” said Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are also stepping in to help as “the Government estimates that some 4.3 million people are affected, across 36 provinces.”
UNICEF estimates that up to 1.7 million children could be affected by the typhoon.
“UNICEF’s first priorities are focused on life-saving interventions – getting essential medicines, nutrition supplies, safe water and hygiene supplies to children and families,” said UNICEF’s representative in the Philippines, Tomoo Hozumi.
In addition, the World Food Programme (WFP) has so far allocated $2 million for the response as it sent 40 metric tonnes of high-energy biscuits to the victims.
A number of NGOs are also mobilizing their resources to help the families in the Philippines.
Save the Children and World Vision have started an online campaign to raise funds for those effected by the natural disaster.
Operation USA, a Los Angeles-based international relief agency is calling for donations to aid recovery efforts and funding for grant distribution to local agencies in the affected areas.
Habitat for Humanity is trying to help rebuild houses “by sending in your donations that can help them rebuild their homes. Habitat for Humanity Philippines Shelter Repair Kits (SRK) costs Php 15,000 ($350) which is good for one family. This amount can help families repair even heavily damaged houses,” reads their online call to action.