TACLOBAN, Philippines, (Reuters) – One of the most powerful storms ever recorded has killed at least 10,000 people in the central Philippines province of Leyte, a senior police official said on Sunday, with coastal towns and the regional capital devastated by huge waves.
Typhoon Haiyan destroyed about 70 to 80 percent of the area in its path as it tore through the province, said chief superintendent Elmer Soria, a regional police director. It not only brought wind gusts of around 275 kph (170 mph), it also caused a storm surge and whipped up waves of 5 to 6 metres (yards).
The national government and disaster agency have not confirmed the figure, a sharp increase from initial estimates on Saturday of at least 1,000 deaths.
“We had a meeting last night with the governor and the other officials. The governor said based on their estimate, 10,000 died,” Soria told Reuters. “The devastation is so big.”
Haiyan, a category 5 typhoon that churned through the Philippine archipelago in a straight line from east to west, has weakened significantly before hitting northern Vietnam on Sunday.
Tacloban city in central Leyte province bore the brunt of Haiyan, which flooded villages as far as one kilometre from the shore, leaving floating bodies and roads choked with debris from fallen trees, tangled power lines and flattened homes.
“From a helicopter, you can see the extent of devastation. From the shore and moving a kilometre inland, there are no structures standing. It was like a tsunami,” said Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas, who had been in Tacloban since before the typhoon struck the city of 220,000 people, located about 580 km (360 miles) southeast of Manila.
“I don’t know how to describe what I saw. It’s horrific,” Roxas said, adding he sent out patrols to stop widespread looting by desperate residents looking for food and water.
City officials said they were struggling to retrieve bodies and send relief supplies to survivors.
“The dead are on the streets, they are in their houses, they are under the debris, they are everywhere,” said Tecson John Lim, a Tacloban city administrator.
(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Eric Beech)