The death toll from one of the strongest typhoons on record has risen above 5,000 and is likely to climb further, although recovery efforts are beginning to take hold, Philippine officials said Friday.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said 4,919 people were killed on Leyte, Samar and nearby islands in the Eastern Visayas region. Civil Defence Chief Eduardo del Rosario said 290 others died in other parts of the central and southern Philippines.
The regions were battered two weeks ago by fierce winds and tsunami-like storm surges from Typhoon Haiyan, locally called Yolanda.
Del Rosario said there are 1,611 people still missing.
“That is the sad record of Yolanda’s passage through our country,” Roxas said. But he added that the worst is over.
He likened the region to a patient that has been moved out of the emergency room into an intensive care unit.
“We have overcome the most difficult part,” he said. “In the first week we can say we were in the emergency room … this second week we are now in the ICU, still critical but stabilized.”
He said the hard-hit Leyte provincial capital of Tacloban reported 1,725 dead. “I believe this number in Tacloban city is not yet final,” he said.
Most of the bodies have been buried in mass graves, many of them unidentified, he said.
“It is possible that some of the missing are among the unidentified,” he said.
Mass burials may complicate Philippines Typhoon Haiyan recovery
Journalists in Tacloban say the stench of death from piles of debris, upturned vehicles and remnants of what once were homes indicate that bodies remain trapped underneath.
Roxas said the situation was stabilizing, with major roads on Samar and Leyte cleared of debris and some banks, grocery stores and gas stations now open.
More troops and police have been brought to the region from other parts of the country to beef up law and order.
The airport in Tacloban, the regional hub, and its seaport are operating.
“There is no more looting,” he said. “We are now heading to recovery and reconstruction.”
Haiyan hit the eastern seaboard of the Philippines on Nov. 8 and quickly barrelled across its central islands, packing winds of 235 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 275 kilometres per hour, with a storm surge of six metres.
Even though authorities evacuated about 800,000 people ahead of the typhoon, the death toll was high because many evacuation centres — schools, churches and government buildings — could not withstand the winds and water. Officials said people who sought shelter in the buildings drowned or were swept away.
Canada and about two dozen other governments sent aid. Bottlenecks, including roads blocked by debris, damaged vehicles and a lack of personnel, held up the distribution of relief supplies in the first week.
World Bank raises aid package to almost $1B US
The World Bank said it raised to almost $1 billion its financial aid package to support relief and reconstruction in typhoon-devastated areas in the central Philippines.
The World Bank said it offered $480 million on top of a $500-million emergency loan it committed earlier to the Philippines, with the additional funds to be used for the early rebuilding of communities and crucial infrastructure such as water, rural roads, schools and clinics.
The government has started compiling a typhoon reconstruction plan that needs support from Congress, the private sector and donors.
Apart from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank also pledged a $523 million loan and grant package to the Philippines, as foreign governments and international aid agencies committed about $344 million in cash and relief goods.
The government initially estimated the reconstruction cost to reach as much as $5.8 billion, with more than 1 million houses totally or partly destroyed and about $524.3 million worth of damage to agriculture and infrastructure.