Sunday, November 10, 2013

Death Toll in Philippines Expected to Exceed 10,000: "We Don't Have Enough Body Bags"

Typhoon Haiyan's Fury

Update: Alerts have been issued for the Philippines as Tropical Depression Zoraida threatens to form into a tropical storm/typhoon and follow virtually the same track as Haiyan. This will bring more high winds and heavy rains to areas completely devastated by Haiyan, making an already desperate situation even more desperate:

Update II: There are fears that the initial estimate of 10,000 people killed by the horrific Typhoon Haiyan is far too low in the face of this monumental cataclysm. Rescue workers have described the once vibrant Tacloban City as a "corpse-choked wasteland", with rescuers scrambling for body bags and places to bury the dead. Survivors continue to patrol the streets in shell-shocked dismay and silence, searching for surviving family members, mementos as well as food, shelter and fresh water. No city or town in Haiyan's devilish path remain standing. Many communities up the coast have been left virtually inaccessible by the overwhelming debris field, where thousands more people are certainly dead or dying. Conservative damage estimates from the storm are from between $8-15 Billion US, making this one of the most expensive disasters...this year.  The human cost of this disaster is beyond measure.

There are terrifying stories coming out of the Philippines this weekend after one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), smashed into the Southeast Asia island nation as a post-Category Five super typhoon on Friday.

Packing sustained winds in excess of 200mph, the storm lay to waste entire cities in the Eastern Samar region of the country. While official estimates on a death toll are not clear at this time, the situation in the Philippines is clearly very grim. Local officials and law enforcement in the region are calling out for global support in the rescue and clean-up efforts, begging for emergency supplies from the international community as well as body bags to contain dead bodies being recovered. In some more remote areas, officials are resorting to burying dead bodies, many unidentified,  in mass graves out of fear of creating a disease epidemic.

Early estimates fear that at least 10,000 people are dead and that many others will perish due to a lack of clean, potable water, fresh food and medicine, especially in more remote regions where towns are completely inaccessible due to debris-clogged roadways. Early reports indicate that a large portion of the country's infrastructure is completely destroyed and could take years if not decades to repair.

The city of Tacloban, which has a population of over 200,000, appears to be completely devastated by the incredible force of the storm, which created a deadly tidal storm surge that swept into the city and damaged or destroyed nearly every building in the entire city. The death toll in Tacloban alone is feared to be in the thousands. A correspondent for the BBC says that thousands of people have sought temporary shelter at the local airport in Tacloban City, which sustained massive damage from Haiyan, many desperate to get flights out of the city, although only emergency aid flights are being allowed to land and leave at this time. Aerial views from the region show miles and miles of city left in complete devastation as far as the eye can see. Thousands of survivors are now roaming the debris-ridden streets in shock, in search of shelter and food. ""People are walking like zombies looking for food," said Jenny Chu, a medical student in Leyte. "It's like a [horror] movie."

The ferocious storm of the century comes only weeks after a series of less powerful storms swept across the nation as well as an intense earthquake which rattled parts of the Philippines and toppled buildings and frayed nerves, leaving more than 300 people dead. 

The storm is expected to make landfall again in Vietnam early on Monday as a far less powerful storm. Over 600,000 people in Vietnam have been evacuated as a precaution from the still dangerous typhoon. New satellite imagery shows a storm currently developing over the same region that spawned Haiyan, with fears a second storm could follow close on its deadly heels.

Update: According to Weather Underground, Typhoon Haiyan is now officially the strongest storm on record, besting the old record set by Hurricane Camille, which devastated the Gulf Coast of the US in 1969:

Graph courtesy of Weather Underground

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