TACLOBAN CITY, NOVEMBER 16, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Jaime Laude - The death toll from Typhoon Yolanda that swept the Visayas region has increased by a thousand overnight.

A notice board in Tacloban City Hall estimated the deaths at 4,000 yesterday, up from 2,000 a day before, in this town alone.

Hours later, Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez apologized and said the toll was for the whole Visayas region.

The toll, marked up on a whiteboard, was compiled by officials who started burying bodies in a mass grave on Thursday.

Romualdez said some people may have been swept out to sea and their bodies lost after a tsunami-like wall of seawater slammed into coastal areas. One neighborhood with a population of between 10,000 and 12,000 was now deserted, he said.

The City Hall toll was the first public acknowledgement that the number of fatalities would likely far exceed an estimate given this week by President Aquino, who said the loss of life from Yolanda would be closer to 2,000 or 2,500.

Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Official confirmed deaths nationwide rose by more than 1,000 overnight to 3,621 yesterday after the typhoon, one of the strongest ever recorded, roared across the Visayas region a week ago.

The figures came from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), which said 1,140 remain missing.

Adding to the confusion, the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the latest overall death toll was at 4,460, but a spokesman said it was now reviewing the figure.

The OCHA has reported the 4,460 fatality count in the Visayas and placed the number of people affected by the typhoon to 11.8 million and a total of 243,000 houses destroyed.

It later withdrew this report, saying it had gotten wrong data.

Malacañang, however, maintained the official count and said they are not buying the higher death figures given by the UN body.

“There is no attempt to hide or to fudge any figures. Any assertion otherwise would just be pure speculations at this point. That’s just pure speculation,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

She said the “confusion” may have also arisen on the basis that the UN spokesman “recanted” his own estimates, “although there is also one agency that is insisting that they have not.”

“As far as government is concerned, we are working with the official casualty count that is released by the NDRRMC,” Valte said.

Valte said the NDRRMC is the primary source of information because “most of the departments are part of that particular structure.”

On Tuesday, Aquino said estimates of 10,000 dead by local officials were overstated and caused by “emotional trauma.”

Regional police director Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria, who made that estimate to media, was removed from his post on Thursday.

A police spokesman said Soria was due to be transferred to headquarters in Manila. But a senior police official said Soria could have been reassigned because of his unauthorized casualty estimate.

“I have already instructed all the concerned agencies that they should not release or discuss their own opinion,” said NDRRMC executive director Eduardo del Rosario.

The NDRRMC has been highly criticized for being slow in responding to the basic needs – food, water, medicine and shelter – of the thousands of hungry individuals displaced by Typhoon Yolanda.

‘The smell is getting worse’

Stunned survivors in Tacloban said the toll could be many thousands. “There are a lot of dead people on the street in our neighborhood, by the trash,” said Aiza Umpacan, a 27-year-old resident of San Jose, one of the worst hit neighborhoods of the city.

“There are still a lot of streets that were not visited by the disaster relief operations. They are just going through the highways, not the inner streets,” she said.

“The smell is getting worse and we actually have neighbors who have been brought to hospital because they are getting sick.”

On the other hand, authorities have started burying some of 3,621 bodies in mass graves.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II assured the public that due respect was given to the dead as the corpses were not just thrown in mass graves.

“All are undergoing the process. We will not just dump them into the mass graves. We treat the bodies with respect, photographs are being taken,” Roxas said.

He said bulldozers have dug graves for the bodies after being processed, identified, and photographed, and if possible, secure their fingerprints.

Roxas said the processing was being made to allow their relatives to trace them.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is helping in the forensic investigation and DNA sampling.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has sent teams to operate payloaders, bulldozers and dump trucks to retrieve some of the bodies buried under the tons of debris in Tacloban.

The preliminary number of missing as of Friday, according to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), rose to 25,000 from 22,000 a day earlier. That could include people who have since been located, it said.

PRC secretary-general Gwen Pang said they are building “tent cities” for the evacuees, identifying three areas where these would be set up.

“Our chairman, Richard Gordon, had acquired lands where the tent cities can be built. In a tent city, the people will be more comfortable because there will be a house, water, lights, latrine, shower facilities, communal system,” Pang told dzRH radio.

Pang said the PRC wanted the survivors to have a “semblance of normalcy” to help them rebuild their lives. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Delon Porcalla, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Alexis Romero, Sheila Crisostomo, Perseus Echeminada

All 3,017 bodies so far recovered in Eastern Visayas unidentified ( | Updated November 16, 2013 - 10:32am 6 42 googleplus0 0

Remains in body bags are piled in a lot in Tacloban. EDD GUMBAN

MANILA, Philippines - All of the bodies that have been recovered in Eastern Visayas, the hardest hit region by super typhoon "Yolanda," remained unidentified, based on the state disaster response agency's report on Saturday.

In its 8 a.m. report, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said a total of 3,633 people have been confirmed killed.

A total 3,017 unidentified bodies have been recovered in Leyte, a bulk of which were recorded in Tacloban City with 696 bodies, Tanauan town with 600 bodies and Tolosa and Dulag towns with 675 bodies.

Rescue workers have also recovered 221 unidentified bodies in Eastern Samar, 190 more bodies in Samar and 4 in Biliran. There were also two unidentified bodies recovered in Bogo City in Cebu province.

The NDRRMC report said that 1,000 people remain missing in Tanauan town in Leyte province alone, and 119 more were reported missing in five more towns in Leyte, five towns in Eastern Samar and one town in Samar.

The report also cited that 9 million individuals or 1.9 million families were affected by the super typhoon in nine regions, and a majority of them are residents of Eastern Visayas.

Of the affected population, nearly two million are displaced or living in evacuation centers.

DNA sampling

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that several teams of experts will start today the collection of DNA samples as the government starts efforts to identify the bodies found in the the devastated areas in Eastern Visayas.

Ona said that each team is composed of forensic experts and photographers. He said the teams will use a quick system based on international standards on disaster victim identification.

He said each team will be able to process 40 bodies a day, but the results would take some time.

“We are appealing for patience and understanding because the procedure of identification will take a while,” Ona said.

He said photos, identifying marks and belongings, and appropriate samples for possible DNA testing will be collected as practical as can be.

Public viewing will not be allowed during the identification procedure, but Ona said relatives would be asked to participate in the final identification at an appointed time.

The National Bureau of Investigation will also participate in the identification of the bodies. A bureau official said earlier that each DNA sampling would cost between P15,000 and P20,000 each.

Imelda concerned for Leyte following 'Yolanda's' devastation By Christina Mendez ( | Updated November 14, 2013 - 6:18pm 0 47 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Former First Lady and now Ilocos Norte 2nd District Rep. Imelda Marcos expressed much concern over the catastrophic devastation caused by super typhoon Yolanda in her home province of Leyte.

"With great concern, of course, and we are keeping her apprised of the situation on the ground and what we have been doing to help," said Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. when sought for comment how his mother and family are taking the devastation caused of Yolanda in Leyte.

The senator revealed that the family members tried to isolate the 84-year old wife of former President Ferdinand Marcos since she is just recuperating from a recent confinement. But recently the flamboyant former first lady has already been allowed access to television where she saw the massive devastation of the super typhoon.

"We tried to downplay the extent of the disaster, but she had already been following reports on TV. She's feeling much better," Marcos said.

According to Sen. Marcos, they have not checked on the condition of the family ancestral house in the province because he and his staff are busy coordinating relief efforts in the affected area.

"We have not really inspected the house in Leyte," he said.

Sen. Marcos added that he and his office are just now trying to mobilize all resources to help in the relief efforts.

The senator stressed the need to get potable water in Leyte.

"Fresh water is now the concern so we have been trying to get portable water treatment plants there. Also, water filters for immediate use are being acquired and slowly distributed," he said.

Marcos also see the lack of coordination in the distribution of relief goods in the affected areas.

"There seems to be lack of organization in dispatching goods from Cebu and many donated items have not left for stricken areas. We are trying to help expedite that, He said.

Marcos had launched the HelpLeyte.PH to serve as a hub to provide updates and help coordinate relief efforts for the victims of typhoon. The project is a joint effort with the senator and Rep. Martin Romualdez and Mayor Alfred Romualdez.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved