The official government death toll stands at 1,774, although authorities have admitted they have not come close to accurately assessing the number of bodies lying amid the rubble or swept out to sea.
Four days after Super Typhoon Haiyan destroyed entire coastal towns in mostly poor central islands with record winds and tsunami-like waves, the magnitude of the disaster continued to build with almost unimaginable horror.
“We are certainly expecting the worst. As we get more and more access we find the tragedy of more and more people killed in this typhoon,” UN humanitarian operations director John Ging said, after Philippine President Benigno Aquino declared a “state of national calamity.”
The United Nations warned 10,000 people were feared dead in just one city, Tacloban, the provincial capital of Leyte Province, where five-metre waves flattened nearly everything in their path as they swept hundreds of metres inland.
Nearly 10 million people, or 10 per cent of the Philippines’ population, have been affected, while 660,000 have lost their homes, the UN estimated as it launched a flash appeal to raise millions of dollars for relief efforts.
Overwhelmed and under-resourced rescue workers have been unable to provide desperately needed food, water, medicines, shelter and other relief supplies to many survivors, and desperation has been building across the disaster zones.
“There is nothing here left for us. Our house is gone, we don’t have any money, we don’t have our documents, passports, school records,” Carol Mampas, 48, told AFP at Tacloban’s destroyed airport as she cradled her feverish baby son in a blanket.
“Please, please, tell authorities to help us. Where is the food, where is the water? Where are the military collecting the dead?”
Bodies still litter the wreckage, while security concerns are building as gangs take advantage of a security vacuum to loot homes and businesses that survived the typhoon.
The government announced a night-time curfew for Tacloban and deployed special forces across the ruined city in a bid to prevent looting.
Heavy rain overnight in Tacloban compounded the survivors’ desperation, while a tropical storm to the south threatened other typhoon-hit islands, where hundreds of other people were also killed.
An international relief effort has gained momentum, with the US and Britain announcing they would quickly deploy warships carrying thousands of soldiers to the Philippines.
The Pentagon said the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which has 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft aboard, will head to the United States’ close Asian ally today, from Hong Kong where it is currently on a port visit.
Five other warships are also being deployed, and the group is expected to reach the Philippines within two to three days, the Pentagon said. Ninety US marines arrived in Tacloban yesterday as an advance team.
Britain will also send a warship, currently deployed in nearby Singapore, “at full speed” to the Philippines, Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday.
Many other countries have pledged help, with even China, which has been embroiled in a bitter territorial dispute with the Philippines, offering aid and sympathy. The UN children’s fund, UNICEF, said a cargo plane carrying 60 tonnes of aid, including shelter and medicine, were scheduled to have arrived Tuesday, in the Philippines, to be followed by deliveries of water purification and sanitation equipment.