The death toll from one of the world’s most powerful typhoons surged to about 4,000 yesterday, with bodies lying uncollected as rescuers tried to evacuate stricken communities across the central Philippines.
After long delays, hundreds of international aid workers set up makeshift hospitals and trucked in supplies, while helicopters from an American aircraft carrier ferried medicine and water to remote areas levelled by Typhoon Haiyan a week ago.
“We are very, very worried about millions of children,” United Nations Children’s Fund spokesman Marixie Mercado told reporters in Geneva.
Captain Victoriano Sambale, a military doctor who has treated patients in Tacloban since Saturday, said there had been a change in the pace in the response.
“I can see the international support coming here,” he said.
“Day one, we treated 600-plus patients. Day two, we had 700-plus patients. Day three, we lost our count.”
President Benigno Aquino, caught off guard by the scale of the disaster, has been criticised for the slow pace of aid distribution and unclear estimates of casualties, especially in Tacloban, capital of hardest-hit Leyte province.
A notice board in Tacloban City Hall estimated the deaths at 4,000 yesterday, up from 2,000 a day before, in that town alone. Hours later, Tacloban mayor Alfred Romualdez apologised and said the toll was an estimate for the whole central Philippines.
Mr Romualdez said some people may have been swept out to sea and their bodies lost after a tsunami-like wall of seawater slammed into coastal areas.
The city hall toll was the first public acknowledgement that the number of fatalities would be likely to far exceed an estimate given this week by Mr Aquino, who said lives lost would be closer to 2,000 or 2,500.
Official confirmed deaths nationwide rose by more than 1,200 overnight to 3,621 yesterday.
“I hope it will not rise anymore. I hope that is the final number,” Eduardo del Rosario, director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said of the latest official toll. “If it rises, it will probably be very slight.”
On Tuesday, Mr Aquino said estimates of 10,000 dead by local officials were overstated and caused by “emotional trauma”.
Logistical problems are still unanswered. Injured survivors face waits in long lines under a searing sun for treatment and local authorities reported shortages of body bags, petrol and staff to collect the dead.
“Bodies are still lying on the roads. But now at least they’re in sections with department of health body bags,” Ian Norton, chief of a team of Australian aid workers, said.
Survivors in Tacloban said the toll could be many thousands.
“There are a lot of dead people on the street in our neighbourhood, by the trash,” said Aiza Umpacan, a 27-year-old resident of San Jose, one of the worst-hit neighbourhoods.
“There are still a lot of streets that were not visited by the disaster relief operations. They are just going through the highways, not the inner streets,” he said. “The smell is getting worse and we actually have neighbours who have been brought to hospital because they are getting sick.”
The preliminary number of missing as of yesterday, according to the Red Cross, rose to 25,000 from 22,000 a day earlier. That could include people who have since been located, it said.
Charity chief tells of gratitude as Britons’ aid donations pass £30m mark in three days
More than £30 million has been raised by the Typhoon Haiyan charity appeal in just three days, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has revealed.
The alliance of 14 UK aid charities said its total had shot up from £23m yesterday as the public responded to the disaster, which has left thousands dead.
The funds will be used to deliver food, water and sanitation equipment, household items and building materials to rebuild essential infrastructure in ruined areas.
DEC chief executive Saleh Saeed said: “We are so grateful to the people of the UK for their generosity to date. The needs are so great, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced.
“People desperately need the basics of food, water and shelter. Money raised will go to delivering these essentials and it’s important we continue to provide this help.”
DEC funds are gathered centrally in the UK and divided between its members on the basis of capacity.
Yesterday, an RAF cargo plane carrying heavy duty vehicles and medical supplies left RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire as part of Britain’s emergency response.
The huge C-17 transport plane was carrying two JCB diggers, two Land Rovers and a forklift truck emblazoned with stickers reading “UK aid from the British people”. The aircraft, operated by 99 Squadron, is due to land in the Philippines this morning.
Flight Sergeant Tony Rimmer, the loadmaster, said: “You feel like you’re doing your part to help. It’s a small part but we try to do our best.”