The death toll from one of the strongest storms on record that ravaged the central Philippine city of Tacloban could reach 10,000 people, officials said Sunday after the extent of massive devastation became apparent.
Typhoon Haiyan destroyed about 70 to 80 per cent 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 km/h, it also caused a storm surge and whipped up waves of five to six metres.
Soria said he was told Saturday there were about 10,000 deaths on the island, mostly by drowning and from collapsed buildings.
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 Philippine Red Cross and its partners were preparing for a major relief effort "because of the magnitude of the disaster," said the agency's chairman, Richard Gordon.
Tacloban in ruins
The typhoon slammed into six central Philippine islands on Friday, wiping away buildings and levelling seaside homes and swallowing coastal towns.
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 kilometres 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.
'There is no power, no water, nothing. People are desperate. They're looting.' - Defence Secretary Voiltaire Gazmin
"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."
City officials said they were struggling to retrieve bodies and send relief supplies to survivors.
Tacloban city administrator Tecson Lim said the death toll in that city, located on Leyte Island, alone "could go up to 10,000," adding that about 300 to 400 bodies have already been recovered.
"The dead are on the streets, they are in their houses, they are under the debris, they are everywhere," Lim said
'Destruction on a massive scale'
A day after Typhoon Haiyan churned through the Philippine archipelago in a straight line from east to west, rescue teams struggled to reach far-flung regions, hampered by washed-out roads, many choked with debris and fallen trees.
"The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami," said Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, head of the UN Disaster Assessment Coordination Team sent to Tacloban, referring to the 2004 earthquake and tsunami.
"This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumbleweed and the streets are strewn with debris."
The airport in Tacloban looked like a muddy wasteland of debris Saturday, with crumpled tin roofs and upturned cars.
"The devastation is, I don't have the words for it," Roxas said. "It's really horrific. It's a great human tragedy."
Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Philippine President Benigno Aquino III was "speechless" when he told him of the devastation the typhoon had wrought in Tacloban.
"I told him all systems are down," Gazmin said. "There is no power, no water, nothing. People are desperate. They're looting."
Nearly 800,000 people were forced to flee their homes and damage was believed to be extensive. About four million people were affected by the typhoon, the national disaster agency said.
Tim Ticar, a local tourism officer, said 6,000 foreign and local tourists were stranded on the popular resort island of Boracay, one of the tourist spots in the typhoon's path.
Canada offers $5M
Foreign Affairs Minister James Baird said Canada would provide up to $5 million in support to humanitarian organizations working in the Philippines.
"The destruction is alarming, and Canada will continue to ensure needs are being met," he said.
"Canada remains committed to supporting the most vulnerable people around the world. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this devastating storm."
In a written statement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper extended his sympathy to those affected by the typhoon.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this devastating natural disaster," he said.
"Canada is standing by to offer any possible assistance to the Philippines in responding to this emergency. Our officials in Ottawa and at our mission in Manila continue to closely monitor the situation, and remain in contact with relevant local officials and humanitarian partners."
UNICEF is shipping an estimated 60 metric tonnes of emergency supplies, which are expected to arrive in the Philippines on Nov. 12.
The agency estimates as many as 1.7 million children could be affected by the disaster.
Vietnam prepares for onslaught
The storm's sustained winds weakened Saturday to 163 km/h with stronger gusts as it blew farther away from the Philippines toward Vietnam.
Haiyan was forecast to hit central Vietnam's coast on Sunday afternoon, making its way to the northern part of the country before likely weakening to a tropical storm.
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 evacuation is being conducted with urgency," disaster official Nguyen Thi Yen Linh said from central Danang City, where some 76,000 were being moved to safety.
Hundreds of thousands of others were being taken to shelters in the provinces of Quang Ngai, Quang Nam and Thua Thien Hue. Schools were closed and two deputy prime ministers were sent to the region to direct the preparations.
Canadians needing urgent consular help following Typhoon #Haiyan can email email@example.com or call collect 6139968885— DFATD (@DFATDCanada) November 9, 2013