Red Cross: Typhoon Kills at Least 1,200 in Philippines

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 9 2013 10:17 AM

Red Cross: Typhoon Kills at Least 1,200 in Philippines

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A man walks among debris of destroyed houses in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, eastern island of Leyte on November 9

Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images

Initial reports that suggested the Philippines may have avoided a big tragedy after it was struck by one of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall early Friday appear to have been mistaken. More than 1,000 people were killed in one city alone and 200 in another province, according to Red Cross estimates revealed Saturday. The death toll from Typhoon Haiyan is expected to continue increasing sharply, reports Reuters.

The Red Cross said it would have more precise death toll numbers Sunday but experts say it could take days to fully understand the extent of the devastation, according to CNN. So far though it seems clear the coastal city of Tacloban was the hardest hit, with officials reporting finding more than 100 bodies scattered on the streets, while at least 200 people were killed in Samar province. Official government figures put the death toll at a significantly lower 138, but officials readily acknowledge it is still too early to have any realistic figures, reports NBC News.

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The destruction from the storm was widespread and part of the delay in getting accurate casualty figures is because the devastation caused much of the country’s communications system to collapse. “The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami,” said a relief worker in 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."

How big was the typhoon? CNN gives some perspective: “For a time, storm clouds covered the entire Philippines, stretching 1,120 miles—the distance between Florida and Canada—and tropical storm-force winds covered an area the size of Germany.” The storm was headed for Vietnam late Saturday and is expected to hit south of Hanoi late Sunday, reports USA Today. Vietnamese officials have begun evacuating around half a million people.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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