Typhoon Haiyan Philippines' death toll officially near 2,300; may rise

Nov. 13, 2013 at 7:56 AM
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MANILA, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- The Philippines' official death toll from Typhoon Haiyan rose to 2,275, with more than 3,600 people injured and 673,000 displaced, officials said.

Casualty numbers were likely to change when figures arrived from 29 towns that hadn't reported in yet, CNN reported Tuesday.

The United Nations said more than 11 million people were affected by the storm -- locally called Yolanda -- which pounded portions of the island nation last week, the BBC reported.

The widely reported figure of 10,000 possible deaths may have come from officials facing "emotional trauma," President Benigno Aquino said.

He said the real figure was more likely in the 2,500 range.

Philippines disaster management officials said 3,665 people were injured and more than 80 were listed as missing, the BBC reported.

Haiyan appears to be fifth deadliest storm in the country's history behind Tropical Storm Thelma in October 1991, which killed more than 5,000, weather officials said.

People who left devastated areas were beginning to overwhelm cities largely missed by Haiyan, causing a rise in prices for food and other goods, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"We had zero casualties but we still needed to declare a state of calamity to stabilize prices," Catbalogan Mayor Stephanie Uy-Tan told the Journal.

A flow of refugees from Eastern Samar and hard-hit Tacloban City led to low supplies in Catbalogan, "especially food and fuel," Uy-Tan said.

Catbalogan had been without power since Friday.

"It's total blackout ... we don't know when we will get power," Samar Gov. Sharee Anne Tan, a sister-in-law of the mayor, told the Journal. "Our problems are fuel, food and security."

Government officials said they were concerned that insurgents are taking advantage of the absence of police officers and soldiers who were diverted to hard-hit areas.

"We have already heard of incidents of individuals and food trucks being held up in Santa Rita, the town at the foot of the San Juanico Bridge," Tan said, referring to the bridge linking Leyte and Samar provinces.

About half of the people who were displaced were in evacuation centers. CNN said hundreds of thousands were homeless and aid organizations were struggling to get them shelter.

"We're bringing in 20,000 shelter kits, hygiene kits," U.S. Agency for International Development spokesman Ben Hemingway said.

Philippine lawmaker Martin Romualdez, from Leyte, said people were becoming increasingly desperate for food, water and medical necessities. He said a greater sense of urgency was needed to get aid to where it was needed.

"Better coordination is needed, because we are seeing a lot of relief goods, medicines, equipment, coming in, but it's not reaching the people affected, thereby causing a sense of hopelessness and desperation in many of those who have survived and are now fleeing their homes, their municipalities, their locales, out of sheer desperation," Romualdez said.

Ramon Zagala, a spokesman for the Philippine military, told the BBC reaching isolated places was difficult.

"Although we have a lot of helicopters at the moment," Zagala said, "it's really a challenge for us to bring [aid] to all the places and [bring] the number of goods that are needed."

Interior Minister Mar Roxas said:

"Our first priorities were, number one, to establish law and order; number two, to bring food and water to the people; and number three, to recover the cadaver bags.[Now] law and order has been stabilized, the supply of food and water is beginning -- I'm not saying that we're anywhere near it -- [but it] is beginning to be stabilized... and now we are concentrating on recovery of cadavers as well as on the distribution of the food and the relief that is coming in."

On Tuesday the United Nations launched an appeal for $301 million to help survivors. It had already released $25 million to help underwrite immediate needs.

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