One of the strongest storms on record killied more than 100 people whose bodies lay in the streets of one of the Philippines’ hardest-hit cities.
Captain John Andrews, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said more than 100 others were injured in the city of Tacloban on Leyte Island, where Typhoon Haiyan hit yesterday.
With power and most communications knocked out a day after the typhoon ravaged the central region, Capt Andrew said the information about the deaths was relayed to him by his staff in Tacloban.
Nearly 750,000 people were forced to flee their homes and damage was believed to be extensive.
Weather experts said Haiyan had sustained winds of 147mph with gusts of 170mph when it made landfall. By those measurements, Haiyan would be comparable to a strong Category 4 hurricane in the US, nearly in the top category, a 5.
Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are the same thing – they are just called different names in different parts of the world.
Because of cut-off communications in the Philippines, it was impossible to know the full extent of casualties and damage. Officially, four people were listed as dead before the latest information from Tacloban came in.
Southern Leyte governor Roger Mercado said the typhoon ripped roofs off houses and triggered landslides that blocked roads.
The dense clouds and heavy rains made the day seem almost as dark as night, he said.
“When you’re faced with such a scenario, you can only pray, and pray and pray,” Mr Mercado said, adding that mayors in the province had not called in to report any major damage.
“I hope that means they were spared and not the other way around. My worst fear is there will be massive loss of lives and property.”
Eduardo del Rosario, head of the disaster response agency, said the speed at which the typhoon sliced through the central islands – 25 mph – helped prevent its 375-mile band of rain clouds from dumping enough of their load to overflow waterways. Flooding from heavy rains is often the main cause of deaths from typhoons.
“It has helped that the typhoon blew very fast in terms of preventing lots of casualties,” regional military commander Lt Gen Roy Deveraturda said. He said the massive evacuation of villagers before the storm also saved many lives.
Philippine television station GMA 's news team saw 11 bodies, including that of a child, washed ashore, and 20 more bodies at a pier in Tacloban hours after the typhoon ripped through the coastal city.
At least 20 more bodies were taken to a church in nearby Palo town that was used as an evacuation centre but had to be abandoned when its roofs were blown away, the TV network reported. TV images showed howling winds peeling off tin roof sheets during heavy rain.
Ferocious winds felled large branches and snapped coconut trees. A man was shown carrying the body of his six-year-old daughter who drowned, and another image showed vehicles piled up in debris.
Nearly 800,000 people were forced to flee their homes and damage was believed to be extensive.
Cabinet secretary Rene Almendras, a senior aide to President Benigno Aquino, said the number of casualties could not be immediately determined, but that the figure was ``probably in that range'' given by Capt Andrews. Government troops were helping recover bodies, he said.
US Marine colonel Mike Wyle, who surveyed the damage in Tacloban ahead of possible American assistance, said that the damage to the runway was significant. Military planes were still able to land with relief aid.
“The storm surge came in fairly high and there is significant structural damage and trees blown over,” he said.
US secretary of state John Kerry said in a statement that America stood ready to help.
Joseph de la Cruz, who hitched a ride on a military plane from Tacloban back to Manila, said he had counted at least 15 bodies.
“A lot of the dead were scattered,” he said, adding that he walked for about eight hours to reach the Tacloban airport.