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Survivors 'walk like zombies' as Philippine typhoon kills 10,000

11 November, 2013

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TACLOBAN: One of the most powerful storms ever recorded killed at least 10,000 people in the central Philippines, a senior police official said on Sunday, with huge waves sweeping away coastal villages and devastating one of the main cities in the region.

Super typhoon Haiyan destroyed about 70 to 80 percent of structures in its path as it tore through Leyte province on Friday, said police chief superintendent Elmer Soria, before weakening and heading west for Vietnam.

As rescue workers struggled to reach ravaged villages along the coast, where the death toll is as yet unknown, survivors foraged for food or searched for lost loved ones.

"People are walking like zombies looking for food," said Jenny Chu, a medical student in Leyte. "It's like a movie."

Most of the deaths appear to have been caused by surging sea water strewn with debris that many said resembled a tsunami, levelling houses and drowning hundreds of people in one of the worst disasters to hit the typhoon-prone Southeast Asian nation.

The national government and disaster agency have not confirmed the latest estimate of deaths, a sharp increase from initial estimates on Saturday of at least 1,200 killed by a storm whose sustained winds reached 313 km per hour with gusts of up to 378 kph.

"We had a meeting last night with the governor and the other officials. The governor said, based on their estimate, 10,000 died," Soria told Reuters. "The devastation is so big."

About 300 people died in neighbouring Samar province, where Haiyan first hit land on Friday as a category 5 typhoon, with 2,000 missing, said an official of the provincial disaster agency.

Nearly 480,000 people were displaced and 4.5 million "affected" by the typhoon in 36 provinces, the national disaster agency said, as relief agencies called for food, water, medicines and tarpaulins for the homeless.

International aid agencies said relief efforts in the Philippines were stretched thin after a 7.2 magnitude quake in central Bohol province last month and displacement caused by a conflict with Muslim rebels in southern Zamboanga province.

The US embassy said it would provide $100,000 for health, water and sanitation support. Australia said it would provide an initial $358,900 in relief supplies.

The World Food Programme said it was airlifting 40 tonnes of high-energy biscuits, enough to feed 120,000 people for a day, as well as emergency supplies and communications equipment.

End.

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