Philippine rescue workers struggled Saturday to grasp the human toll and physical devastation from a powerful typhoon that ripped through the country the day before, killing more than 100 people in a southern city inundated by the storm, according to officials.
Tacloban City, which was hit by surging ocean waters more than 40 feet high, was left devastated by the typhoon, and at least 100 cadavers were seen along the streets, Capt. John Andrews, deputy director general of the civil aviation authority, told a local radio station.
As rescuers make their way to isolated areas and communications are restored, officials worried that the death toll could rise significantly. Damage was expected to be extensive, in part because many structures in poorer regions are not well built.
By some accounts the typhoon, named Haiyan, ranked among the world’s strongest. But because it moved across the country so rapidly and hundreds of thousands were evacuated, officials were hoping that the death toll would be limited. Experts say that is because it did not linger long enough to deluge the islands with rain that has caused the widespread flooding and mudslides that have in the past lead to death tolls in the thousands.
The storm, called Yolanda in the Philippines, moved across the country around 25 miles per hour, roughly twice as fast as Typhoon Bopha, which killed more than a thousand people last year, experts said.
“Fortunately, this moved like a Porsche,” said Michael Padua, a senior typhoon specialist at a private forecasting group, Weather Philippines.
The typhoon slammed into the island of Samar, on the eastern edge of the Philippines, early Friday morning and sped across the islands in the center of the country. Photos showed crumpled wooden buildings, high waves slamming into the shore and, in some cases, people emerging from their houses to find coconuts strewn all over the streets.
There were grave concerns before the storm hit that, because of the estimated wind speeds over the ocean, it could have a devastating impact on land.
The alarm may have been advantageous. More than 790,000 people evacuated their homes, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Many were housed in evacuation centers, which were credited with limiting the death toll.
“People were prepared for this one,” said Rene Paciente, a forecaster with the Philippine government’s national weather agency. “They were given notice, and they were evacuated.”
Sonny Coloma, a presidential spokesman, said on Saturday that aggressive preparations and evacuations by the government appeared to have been effective, though information is still coming in regarding the hardest hit islands of Leyte and Samar.
“This has been responsible for minimizing casualties but I say this guardedly because of the situation in Leyte and Samar,” he said.
Local radio and television stations reported downed power lines, impassible roads and flooding in some areas caused by surging ocean water. And disrupted communications systems hampered rescue efforts and attempts to assess the damage, particularly in more rural areas.
The Philippine weather agency measured winds on the eastern edge of the country at about 150 M.P.H., said Mr. Paciente, the forecaster, with some tracking stations recording speeds as low as 100 M.P.H.
The United States Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center used satellite analysis to estimate the storm carried sustained winds of 195 M.P.H., with gusts up to 235 M.P.H., but that measured the center of the storm when it was over the ocean.
“As far as satellite imagery was concerned, it indicated that this was one of the strongest storms on record,” said Roger Edson, the science and operations officer at the United States National Weather Service in Guam.
He said 195 M.P.H. winds would put the storm “off the charts,” but he acknowledged that satellite estimates require further study on the ground to determine if they were accurate.
By Saturday, the storm had left the Philippines, on a path to Vietnam, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu. In Vietnam, state media reported that an estimated 300,000 people were being evacuated, as forecasters predicted it could be heading toward central Vietnamese cities of Da Nang, a major population center, and Hue, the old imperial capital. (Credits – The New York Times – Asia Pacific and Getty Images).
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