UN Rushes Aid as Typhoon Haiyan Leaves Philippines Counting Dead

Super Typhoon Haiyan left as many as 10,000 people dead in the Philippines after storm surges flooded islands and gale-force winds knocked down buildings and destroyed an airport before moving toward Vietnam.

The United Nations said it is stepping up critical relief operations in the Philippines as a result of the “devastating” impact of Haiyan since it made landfall on Nov. 8. Much of the devastation was concentrated in and around Tacloban City, the capital of Leyte province.

“Access remains a key challenge as some areas are still cut off from relief operations,” the UN office in Manila said today in an e-mailed statement. “Unknown numbers of survivors do not have basic necessities such as food, water and medicines and remain inaccessible for relief operations, as roads, airports and bridges were destroyed or covered in wreckage.”

President Benigno Aquino traveled to Tacloban to view the aftermath of the year’s most powerful cyclone. Television images from the city showed bodies on the streets and floating in the sea, homes reduced to rubble, structures with their roofs ripped off and roads blocked by felled trees.

While the official death toll posted by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council was 229 as of 7 p.m. in Manila, the number was expected to rise as the government received reports from provinces still out of reach, Major Rey Balido, spokesman of the disaster-monitoring agency, said in a text message. Almost 9.5 million Filipinos, or about 9 percent of the population, were affected by Haiyan, the agency said.

‘No Access’

“We can just for the moment relay that according to the national authorities the dead could reach 10,000,” David Pierre Maquet, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said by phone from Geneva. “It could be close to the reality, but the trouble is in some western highlands there is no access so nobody can confirm these estimates.”

Three hundred fatalities were confirmed on Samar island and 2,000 others were missing, the Associated Press cited Leo Dacaynos of Samar province’s disaster office as saying. The Red Cross, as well as providing medicine and food, is operating a tracing service in Tacloban to help people look for missing relatives.

“It is most important now to look after the survivors; we don’t want to expose them to the elements, get sick and add to the casualties,” Aquino said in a briefing in Manila yesterday. “It will be a second tragedy if we fail” in post-disaster management, he said.

Damaged Homes

Almost 20,000 homes were damaged and four airports remain shut, the disaster agency said. Tacloban’s airport was destroyed and only the runway remains, John Andrews of the state aviation authority said yesterday. About 300 soldiers along with armored vehicles were deployed to stop looters, Aquino told reporters at the airport, according to a transcript released by his office.

The typhoon changed course by late afternoon, headed toward Quang Ninh province in north Vietnam, the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting said. It was expected to make landfall as early as 2 a.m. local time.

Almost 603,000 people were evacuated from provinces extending from Nghe An in northern Vietnam to Phu Yen in the southern central region as of 5 a.m. local time. While the government said that planned evacuations covered 13 provinces affecting almost 860,000 residents, the forecasting center’s head, Bui Minh Tang, said on an evening television broadcast that residents in central Vietnam were no longer in the direct path of the typhoon.

Tropical Depression

Over the next 12 hours, the storm may weaken to a tropical depression and change course toward the north and northeast, according to an update on the weather forecasting center’s website. Airlines resumed flights to and from Danang today after the typhoon changed direction, VnExpress reported. Neither Vietnam nor the Philippines issued any announcements that financial-market operations will be affected tomorrow.

The Philippines bore the brunt of the typhoon’s power. Aquino said yesterday the government is prepared to use 23 billion pesos ($533 million) from various agencies and his discretionary fund for relief and rebuilding of disaster-ravaged towns and provinces.

The Philippines was the nation most affected by natural disasters in 2012, with more than 2,000 deaths, according to the Brussels-based Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.

Typhoon Haiyan’s total economic impact may reach $14 billion, about $2 billion of which will be insured, according to a report by Jonathan Adams, a senior analyst at Bloomberg Industries, citing Kinetic Analysis Corp.

Swept Away

High winds swept away about half of the Philippines’ sugar cane-growing areas and a third of its rice-producing land, according to Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.

The UN World Food Program said yesterday it’s ramping up operations in the country after surveying the damage in Leyte and Samar provinces. WFP, the largest humanitarian organization in the world, estimates 2.5 million people will require emergency assistance and has mobilized an initial $2 million for its response. An appeal for further aid through its website will be made as needs become clearer, the agency said.

“This is destruction on a massive scale,” Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, head of the UN Disaster Assessment Coordination Team, said in a statement.

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