Vietnam girds for typhoon after 10,000 dead

Bloomberg

Mon, Nov 11, 2013 - Page 1

Super Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 10,000 people in the Philippines, the Associated Press (AP) reported, as storm surges flooded islands and strong winds knocked down buildings and destroyed an airport before moving toward Vietnam.

Haiyan, the year’s most powerful cyclone, killed as many as 10,000 people in and around Tacloban City, the capital of Leyte province, when it made landfall on Friday, AP reported yesterday, citing regional police chief Elmer Soria. An additional 300 fatalities were confirmed on nearby Samar island and 2,000 others were missing, the AP cited Leo Dacaynos of Samar province’s disaster office as saying.

“It is most important now to look after the survivors; we don’t want to expose them to the elements, get sick and add to the casualties,” Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said on Saturday at a briefing in Manila. “It will be a second tragedy if we fail” in post-disaster management, he said.

The president was in Tacloban yesterday.

While the official death toll posted by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council was at 151 as of 6am yesterday, the number was expected to rise as the government receives reports from provinces still out of reach, Major Rey Balido, spokesman of the disaster-monitoring agency, said in a mobile-phone message.

In addition to the central-region deaths, four people were killed in Palawan, one drowned in Batangas and one was crushed by a tree in Quezon province, the disaster agency said. In the southern Philippines, one person was struck by lightning in Zamboanga City and one was electrocuted in Surigao del Sur, the agency said.

About 300 soldiers along with armored vehicles were deployed to stop looters, Aquino told reporters at Tacloban City airport, according to a transcript released by his office.

Almost 603,000 people had been evacuated from provinces extending from Nghe An in northern Vietnam to Phu Yen in the southern central region as of am yesterday. Planned evacuations now cover 13 provinces affecting almost 860,000 residents, according to a government statement posted yesterday.

The typhoon was 190km east of the central coast provinces of Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue as of 11am, according to a Web site update from the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting.

Winds are expected to reach as high as 149kph, the center said in the post. The storm is expected to move northwest along the coast at about 30kph over the next 12 hours and reach the coastline of the northern port city of Hai Phong at about 10pm, it said.

Neither Vietnam nor the Philippines has issued any announcements that financial market operations will be affected today.

Almost 4.5 million people in the Philippines, or about 4 percent of the population, were affected by Haiyan, mostly in central provinces in the Visayas island group, before the storm left the country, the government said.

The Philippines was the nation most affected by natural disasters last year, with more than 2,000 deaths, according to the Brussels-based Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. A 7.2-magnitude earthquake left 222 dead in the Visayas on Oct. 15.

Television images broadcast from Tacloban showed bodies on the streets and floating in the sea, homes reduced to rubble, structures with roofs ripped off, roads blocked by felled trees and people crying.

Almost 3,500 homes were damaged and four airports remain shut, the disaster agency said. Tacloban’s airport was destroyed and only the runway remains, John Andrews of the state aviation authority said on Saturday.

Aquino on Saturday said the government is prepared to use 23 billion pesos (US$533 million) from various agencies and his discretionary fund for relief and rebuilding of disaster-ravaged towns and provinces.

The government is assessing the impact of Haiyan on the nation’s economy, Philippine Secretary of Economic Planning Arsenio Balisacan said by mobile-phone message yesterday.

It can still meet the top end of a 6 percent to 7 percent economic growth target this year, he said in the message.

The UN World Food Programme yesterday said it is ramping up operations in the country after surveying the damage in Leyte and Samar provinces.

“The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami,” Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, head of the UN Disaster Assessment Coordination Team, said in a statement. “This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumble weed and the streets are strewn with debris.”