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PNoy orders probe on 'extraordinarily high' number of Yolanda casualties


President Benigno Aquino III has ordered an investigation into the “extraordinarily high” number of casualties in certain Yolanda-hit areas in the Visayas, Malacañang said Friday, after the number of fatalities exceeded initial government estimates.

Tasked to undertake the investigation are secretaries Leila de Lima of the Department of Justice and Mario Montejo of the Department of Science and Technology, said Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. at a press briefing.

Coloma said Aquino ordered the investigation after he “noted the extraordinarily high number of casualties” in Tacloban City, Tolosa, Tanauan, Palo, Dulag and other nearby areas that based on statistics account for more than 90 percent of the total casualties.

“Doon kasi sa pagre-review at paga-assess kung ano talaga ang nangyari, nag-standout iyong napakataas ng casualties doon sa area na iyon,” the Palace official said. “[So Aquino] directed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Secretary Mario Montejo of DOST to look into this matter.”

Coloma said the probe seeks to “validate” the causes for the high casualty count, adding the first will be validation through satellite tracking, which will measure the severity of the typhoon's impact.

Quoting Montejo, Coloma said there are available satellite tracking records that will show not only the impact of the typhoon but also the areas that were hit hardest.

Aside from this, Coloma said they will also study the “adequacy” of structures that were used for shelter during the impact of the typhoon, on record as one of the strongest to make landfall.

“Ito naman ay bahagi noong pangkalahatang effort to really know what happened and to do better next time,” he said.

Probe vs LGUs

Aquino had earlier said the local government units' handling of the Yolanda preparations and response is under investigation. It was unclear, however, if the probe is the same as the one to be headed by De Lima and Montejo.

“Ang binanggit ko po ay specific instruction ng ating Pangulo on a specific matter. Yun po ang focus nun, wala na pong ibang tinalakay pa hinggil sa iba pang imbestigasyon,” said Coloma.

But Aquino had earlier said the probe against local officials is not a priority right now.

Death toll estimates

On the weekend of Yolanda's onslaught, Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria, Eastern Visayas police chief, estimated the fatalities at 10,000. Three days later, however, Aquino contested the number and came up with his own estimate of between 2,000 and 2,500. Soria has since been relieved from duty, although officials said he just needed time off to overcome the tragedy.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, the number of fatalities now stood at 4,015 while at least 18,567 were injured and 1,602 missing.

It also said more than one million houses had been damaged, 536,313 of them totally and 549,133 partially.

The estimated damage caused by Yolanda remained at P12,656,523,962.50 as of Friday, including P2,143,840,052.74 in infrastructure and P10,512,683,909.76 in agriculture. — KBK, GMA News