At least 1,200 feared killed by typhoon in Philippines

Typhoon

One of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall devastated the central Philippines, killing more than 1,000 people in one city alone and 200 in another province, the Red Cross estimated Saturday, as reports of high casualties began to emerge.

A day after Typhoon Haiyan churned through the Philippine archipelago in a straight line from east to west, rescue teams struggled to reach far-flung regions, hampered by washed out roads, many choked with debris and fallen trees.

The death toll is expected to rise sharply from the fast-moving storm, whose circumference eclipsed the whole country and which late on Saturday was heading for Vietnam.

Among the hardest hit was coastal Tacloban in central Leyte province, where preliminary estimates suggest more than 1,000 people were killed, said Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross, as water surges rushed through the city.

"An estimated more than 1,000 bodies were seen floating in Tacloban as reported by our Red Cross teams," she told Reuters. "In Samar, about 200 deaths. Validation is ongoing."

She expected a more exact number to emerge after a more precise counting of bodies on the ground in those regions. Witnesses said bodies covered in plastic were lying on the streets. Television footage shows cars piled atop each other.

"The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami," said Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, head of the UN Disaster Assessment Coordination Team sent to Tacloban, referring to the 2004 earthquake and tsunami.

"This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumbleweed and the streets are strewn with debris."

The category 5 "super typhoon" weakened to a category 4 Saturday, though forecasters said it could strengthen again over South China Sea en route to Vietnam.

A government official estimated at least 100 killed and over 100 wounded, but conceded the toll would likely rise sharply.

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