Philippine Officials Estimate at Least 10,000 Killed by Super Typhoon Haiyan

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The Philippines are working to recover from the devastating effects of Super Typhoon Haiyan after the powerful storm made landfall this weekend, leaving a path of destruction and death in its wake. 

The storm ripped through small fishing villages and coastal towns, over turning cars and tearing down building with sustained winds estimated to have reached 195 miles per hour, winds gusting well over 200 miles per hour, and storm surges as high as 13 feet in some areas. The country is still recovering and it's almost impossible to estimate the final number of deaths caused by the storm because communications are completely cut in some areas, and debris is blocking rescue teams from accessing certain cities. Philippine officials estimated at least 400,000 people were in evacuation centers because of the storm. The National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council put the official death toll at 151, but cautioned that number would grow. 

The city perhaps hit hardest by the storm was Tacloban, on Leyte Island. It was one of the first cities the storm hit after making landfall. Some officials estimate the storm destroyed 80 percent of the structures on Leyte Island. The death toll in Tacloban alone could reach into the tens of thousands, according to the government's internal estimate. "We had a meeting last night with the governor and the other officials. The governor said, based on their estimate, 10,000 died," police chief superintendent Elmer Soria told Reuters. "There are dead bodies in other towns. In Tacloban, maybe hundreds more or thousands more," Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon told the Wall Street Journal. "The storm surge was strong," he said.

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For now, officials are only comparing the destruction left behind by Haiyan to some of the worst natural disasters in recent memory. Per the Wall Street Journal, here's the chairman of the Philippine Red Cross comparing it to the country's deadliest storm:

"This is a monumental disaster. As of now, there's no time to count the bodies. The dead bodies are not in one place like what happened in Ormoc," Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, told The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Gordon, a former senator, was referring to the 1991 flash floods caused by a typhoon in Ormoc City on the island of Leyte which claimed more than 5,000 lives—the most on record caused by a storm in the Philippines.

And this is the leader of a United Nations disaster assessment team already on the ground, per The New York Times:

“The last time I saw something on this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami,” Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, the head of the United Nations team, said in a statement, referring to the 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of Indonesia and 13 other countries. “This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumbleweed.”

The storm is now heading towards Vietnam, with weakening but still very strong winds, where 600,000 people have already been evacuated ahead of the storm's arrival. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.