TACLOBAN, Philippines — This central Philippine city was in ruins Saturday, a day after being ravaged by one of the strongest typhoons on record, as horrified residents spoke of storm surges as high as trees and authorities said they were expecting a “very high number of fatalities.”
At least 138 people were confirmed dead in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. But Philippine Red Cross Secretary General Gwen Pang said that agency field staff in the region estimated the toll was about 1,000. But Pang that it was “just an estimate.”
The typhoon slammed into six central Philippine islands on Friday, wiping away buildings and leveling seaside homes. At least 118 of the confirmed deaths were on hardest-hit Leyte Island, where Tacloban is located, said national disaster agency spokesman Maj. Reynaldo Balido.
But after arriving in Tacloban on Saturday, Interior Secretary Max Roxas said it was too early to know how many people had died in the storm, which was heading toward Vietnam after moving away from the Philippines.
“The rescue operation is ongoing, we expect a very high number of fatalities as well as injured,” he said. “All systems, all vestiges of modern living — communications, power, water — all are down. Media is down, so there is no way to communicate with the people in a mass sort of way.”