MANILA, Philippines – At least 100 people were feared dead and nearly 800,000 displaced in the Philippines after one of the strongest typhoons on record flattened homes and triggered storm surges that flooded wide areas, disaster relief officials said Saturday.
Typhoon Haiyan tore through the eastern and central Philippines on Friday, toppling power lines and knocking out communications. Fierce winds ripped roofs off buildings as raging floodwaters swept debris and left vehicles piled on top of each other in streets.
Four people were initially confirmed dead, but the toll was expected to jump as reports trickle in from devastated areas, national disaster relief agency spokesman Reynaldo Balido said. A later announcement put the death toll at 100.
“Yolanda brought massive damage and almost no houses were left standing,” he said, referring to the typhoon’s Philippine name. “Many were reported killed and we are trying to get initial numbers so we don’t get shocked by the increase.”
Balido said nearly 800,000 people were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in emergency shelters, some of which were also damaged by the storm in the eastern province of Leyte, which bore the brunt of the typhoon.
“Many people are out in the streets because they have nowhere else to go to,” he said.
Later Friday, a civil aviation official in the Philippines says he has received a report that more than 100 bodies were lying in the streets of a central city ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan.
Capt. John Andrews, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, says more than 100 others have been injured in the city of Tacloban on Leyte Island.
Authorities said limited communication services made it difficult to confirm the extent of the damage in the province of about 1.7 million people.
“We are very concerned about the situation there,” Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said. “Our priority now is reaching as many people who need help as possible. Our focus is on rescue and relief operations.”
Almendras said initial reports indicated storm surges reaching at least 9 feet swept through many areas in Leyte, including the capital city of Tacloban, drowning an undetermined number of people.
Haiyan was packing maximum winds of about 145 miles per hour and gusts of up to 170 mph when it hit and went “island-hopping” in the Philippines, according to the national weather bureau.
Other weather organizations placed its maximum winds at 195 mph and gusts at about 235 mph.
The storm weakened after making six landfalls in the eastern and central Philippines, with its maximum winds easing to 108 mph and gusts to 130 mph, the weather bureau said. It was expected to be out of the Philippines by this afternoon.