Published On: Dec 24 2013 03:36:47 PM ESTUpdated On: Apr 30 2014 01:44:33 PM EDT
The death toll of this month's Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines has risen to 5,209.
The number of injured was at 23,404, with 1,582 still missing, the government-run Philippines News Agency reported on Nov. 22.
The estimated death toll has fluctuated a great deal -- everywhere from 1,200 to as many as 10,000 -- since the storm hit. With so much debris blocking roads and preventing aid workers from getting to hard-hit areas, getting an accurate casualty toll has been difficult.
Tacloban, a city that is home to 200,000 people, suffered the greatest devastation, said Lt. Jim Aris Alago, information officer for Navy Central Command. Officials initially found more than 100 bodies scattered on the streets of the coastal city, and that death toll was expected to rise dramatically.
Doctors in Tacloban had trouble treating all the city's injured in the immediate aftermath of the storm. At the city's only functioning hospital, doctors couldn't admit any more wounded victims -- there wasn't enough room. Some of the injured lay in the hospital's cramped hallways seeking treatment. "We haven't anything left to help people with," one of the doctors said. "We have to get supplies in immediately."
There were fewer corpses along the streets one week after the storm. Cadaver crews have been driving around and collecting bodies, which are being buried in mass graves.
The violence was not all caused by Haiyan. A Philippines senator said she's learned of reports of rapes and other crimes against women, some allegedly by prison escapees, PNA reported. But the U.S. military has said that violent crime is less of an obstacle to providing aid than is the debris that blocks roads.
Super Typhoon Haiyan -- one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever observed -- first made landfall before dawn Friday on the Philippines' eastern island of Samar.
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.
At the time of landfall, sustained winds were clocked at 195 mph winds with 235 mph gusts -- the equivalent of a strong Category 5 hurricane.
What's the difference between a typhoon and a hurricane? Depends on where you live. Tropical cyclones with sustained surface winds of 74 mph or more are known as typhoons when they form west of the international date line. East of the line, they're known as hurricanes.
It wasn't just the storm's strong winds that caused damage -- it was also a mammoth storm surge that reached up to 5 meters (16 feet) high.
But the speed of the storm -- which was clocked at 41 mph -- meant residents didn't have to hunker down long. Many emerged Saturday from their homes and shelters and trekked through streets littered with debris to supermarkets, looking for water and food.
Storm chaser Jason Reynolds was among the people in the Philippines when the storm hit. He said that among the 35 typhoons his company has filmed since 2005, Haiyan was the worst. "It was without a doubt the most catastrophic event I've witnessed before my eyes," Reynolds said of the super typhoon. "To actually go through a disaster as it takes place and then be there afterward just compares to nothing. It'll probably be the only time in my life."
An estimated 9.5 million people have been affected by the typhoon, including roughly 620,000 displaced from their homes, according to the United Nations.
The casualties from the storm occurred despite preparations that included the evacuation of more than 800,000 people, said Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF's Philippines representative.
As the full impact of the storm is assessed, children are expected to be among the most affected, according to UNICEF, which put the number of children living in the typhoon's path at 1.7 million.
The storm continued churning across Asia early Monday, making landfall in Vietnam's Quang Ninh Province -- weakened but still powerful. The storm was packing winds of 75 mph with higher gusts. Six people were killed in Vietnam as Haiyan battered the country, state media reported Monday.
The typhoon was 3.5 times more forceful than the United States' Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "This disaster on such a scale will probably have us working for the next year," said Sandra Bulling, international communications officer for the aid agency CARE.
Aid workers were already in the Philippines right after the storm, but they were having trouble accessing many hard-hit areas. The Tacloban city airport was shut to commercial flights, and it would be three days before a land route was open, so organizers were considering chartering a boat for the 1½-to-2-day trip, one Red Cross representative said the Saturday after the storm.
Authorities are funneling aid on military planes to Tacloban's airport, which resumed limited commercial flights Monday. But with the airport nine miles (15 kilometers) from the city center and many roads still clogged with debris, getting supplies to where they're most needed is proving difficult.
The UN's World Food Programme is set up logistical pipelines to transport food and other relief items. WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher said the U.N. group was gearing up its global resources to send enough food to feed 120,000 people.
Sandra Bulling, international communications officer for the aid agency CARE, estimates that her organization will be participating in recovery efforts for the next year. "Fishermen have lost their boats. Crops are devastated. This is really the basic income of many people."
The U.S. is sending support to the Philippines. The U.S. Agency for International Development, known as USAID, announced it immediately made available $100,000 to go for health care, clean water and sanitation to areas hit hard by the devastating storm.
The American Embassy noted that Washington will also fly a humanitarian assistance surveyteam to Manila due to the catastrophe.