At least 33 dead as super typhoon Yolanda pounds central Philippines
Super Typhoon Haiyan smashed into coastal communities on the central island of Samar, about 600 kilometers southeast of Manila, before dawn on Friday with maximum sustained winds of about 315 kilometers an hour.
"We've had reports of uprooted trees, very strong winds... and houses made of light materials being damaged," Philippine Red Cross chief Gwendolyn Pang told AFP on Friday afternoon as Haiyan swept across the archipelago's central and southern islands.
At least 30 dead in Tacloban, Palo in Leyte
According to a report by GMA reporter Jiggy Manicad aired on Friday evening's episode of "State of the Nation with Jessica Soho", at least 30 people were dead in Tacloban City and Palo town in Leyte. The provinces was one of the worst hit by the typhoon.
"Doon lang sa aming puwesto sa may Tacloban City ay na-anod sa may coastal area yung 11 na ka-tao kaagad. Isa po doon ay bata," Manicad said.
He added that he and his team felt like they were "inside a washing machine" as 200 kph winds blew for four hours.
Manicad and his team walked for six hours to link up with GMA reporter Love Añover in Palo, Leyte.
"Doon sa mga nadaanan namin, meron ding mga labi ng mga biktima sa tabing kalye," he said.
Añover had taken shelter in a church in Palo town earlier in the day, but strong winds blew off the roof of the church.
That church now housed at least 20 fatalities who were washed up on shore or were found dead by the road, Manicad said.
"Isa sa mga pinoproblema ngayon ay wala ring mga punerarya, sila'y nasira," he said.
The municipal hall of Palo has also been temporarily converted into a shelter for injured residents and those displaced by the typhoon.
Manicad said Palo is "totally isolated" because of felled trees and electric posts blocking the road. He said the town is low on food, water, and medicine.
One of the casualties already identified was Regie Francisco Bucoy, a two-year-old infant who was struck by lightning in Brgy. Lanzones in Zamboanga City, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported Friday afternoon.
Two other casualties, who both died from electrocution, were identified as Enex Deinla, 15, from Masbate and Jimmy Cabilan, 56, from Lingig, Surigao del Sur.
Seven other people were injured due to the typhoon, and a total of 151,910 families have been moved to evacuated centers in the affected provinces, the NDRRMC said.
As of 6 p.m. Friday, there was still no cellular signal in Samar, Leyte, and several provinces in the Central Visayas region.
The Philippine Information Agency reported on its Facebook page Weather Watch that one of the casualties from the typhoon is 56-year-old Randy Cejar from Calinog town in Iloilo province. However, he was not included in the NDRRMC report.
Agence France-Presse, meanwhile, said a man was reported missing after he fell off a gangplank in the central port of Cebu.
A total of 3,093 passengers and 155 sea vessels are stranded in ports due to Yolanda, the Philippine Coast Guard said at the NDRRMC press conference, adding that no maritime incidents have been recorded so far.
Power and communications in the three large island provinces of Samar, Leyte and Bohol were almost completely down but the government and telephone service providers promised to restore them within 24 hours.
Authorities warned that more than 12 million people were at risk, including residents of Cebu City, which has a population of about 2.5 million.
"Power is off all across the island and the streets are deserted," said Lionel Dosdosa, an International Organization for Migration coordinator on Bohol island, the epicenter of an October 15 earthquake that killed 222 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.
"It's dark and gloomy, alternating between drizzle and heavy rain," he said.
At least 5,000 survivors were still living in tents on Bohol, and they were moved to schools that had been turned into evacuation centers.
Roger Mercado, governor of Southern Leyte province, said no one should underestimate typhoon Yolanda.
"It is very powerful," Mercado told DZBB radio. "We lost power and all roads are impassable because of fallen trees. We just have to pray."
In Samar province, links with some towns and villages had been cut, officials said.
"The whole province has no power," Samar Governor Sharee Tan told Reuters by telephone. Fallen trees, toppled electric poles, and other debris blocked roads, she said.
Ports closed, flights canceled
Authorities suspended ferry services and fishing and shut 13 airports. Nearly 450 domestic and eight international flights were suspended.
Schools, offices, and shops in the central Philippines were closed, with hospitals, soldiers, and emergency workers preparing for rescue operations. Twenty navy ships and various military aircraft including three C-130 cargo planes and helicopters were on standby.
In Surigao del Norte, the Provincial Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) reported that a total of 8,821 families are now housed in different evacuation centers in the province. No casualties have been recorded as of 3 p.m. – Xianne Arcangel with reports from Reuters & Agence France Presse/KG/RSJ/YA/JDS, GMA News