Estimates in the Philippines of the damage from typhoon Haiyan have been revised sharply higher as government reconnaissance and television news teams reach areas such as Guian, the town in Eastern Samar, where the world’s worst tropical cyclone of the year made landfall.
“One hundred per cent of the structures either had their roofs blown away or sustained major damage,” Colonel John Sanchez wrote in notes accompanying aerial photographs of the town, taken on Sunday morning and posted on the Facebook page of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Central Command. “Nearly all the coconut trees fell. We saw people in the streets, seemingly dazed.”
He added that the team had seen no signs that humanitarian assistance had arrived in the town, which is more than 80km from Tacloban city in Leyte province, which appears to be the worst-hit area so far reached by government officials and journalists.
“It was almost lunch time but there was no smoke from cooking fires,” said Col Sanchez.
“The place was almost erased from the map of the Philippines,” said an ABS-CBN television reporter who was one of the first journalists to reach Eastern Samar. “There is no supply of water and electricity and no communication.”
Manila more than doubled its estimate of the number of people affected by the typhoon to 9.5m, or about a tenth of the Philippine population, in 41 of 80 provinces, according to a report issued late Sunday evening by the government disaster management agency.
The government also updated its death toll from 151 to 229 even as it warned the number of deaths was likely to rise as reports come in from previously unreachable areas.
The Philippine National Red Cross said the tropical cyclone may have killed more than 1,200 people while provincial government reports from the province of Leyte put the death toll there alone at more than 10,000, but this could not be immediately confirmed.
A spokesman for the government disaster agency said officials had yet to check the numbers.
Desperation is beginning to set in among victims, with reports of looting and theft, including attacks on trucks bringing in emergency supplies.
In Tacloban, where a storm surge – an abnormal rise of water generated by the storm – is believed to have killed more than 100 people, business leaders pressed President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino to declare martial law to restore order. The president seemed irritated by this request and left the meeting for a few minutes to meet other officials. He later said he was open to the idea so long as it was in accordance with the constitution.
Officials said they expect the situation in Tacloban to normalise soon following the opening of a bridge linking the city to nearby islands, making it easier to bring emergency supplies to the city.