MANILA,Philippines - The death toll in the wake of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: “Haiyan”) on Wednesday neared the 6,000 mark, nearly three times the initial estimate made by President Aquino days after the strongest typhoon to hit land battered Eastern Visayas.
There were still discrepancies in the numbers, however, highlighting the government’s inadequate system of assessing the physical damage from natural disasters.
Latest reports from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and field reports showed there were 5,818 fatalities from Yolanda, nearly the majority of whom drowned in the storm surge that caught many residents by surprise. Of the figure, the NDRRMC said that 2,116 were from Tacloban City.
On Wednesday, field reports from Tacloban City showed that authorities had already recovered 2,215 bodies.
It was not even clear whether there were really a hundred bodies found floating in mangroves in San Juanico Bridge on Tuesday.
Senior Supt. Pablito Cordeta, an official of the Bureau of Fire Protection office here and the commander of the Task Force Cadaver in Tacloban City, said that his group recovered 25 bodies on Tuesday, bringing the total to 2,215.
He said another seven bodies were retrieved from the San Juanico Bridge on Dec. 2.
Cordeta debunked reports that more than 100 bodies were discovered by a Chinese humanitarian team floating at the famed bridge connecting Samar and Leyte across the San Juanico strait.
“That’s not true. We are belying that. There was no coordination with the task force. I am the task force commander and we do not know those foreigners and what they were claiming,” Cordeta said in Filipino.
Earlier estimates of fatalities from the supertyphoon were pegged at 10,000, which President Aquino lowered to between 2,000 and 2,500.
As the number of fatalities breached the 5,000 mark last week, Aquino conceded that the death toll could actually be higher. He said the low estimate he gave was based on the initial confirmed dead reported to him.
Government also criticised the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for giving an initial estimate that was double than what President Aquino had earlier announced.
Establishing the death toll from a calamity is an important measure in assessing the impact of a natural disaster, enabling governments to establish their disaster risk reduction policies and measures.