Yolanda death toll estimate hits 5,200+ breaking previous record set by Uring in 1991

The death toll following the disaster wrought by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) has according to a Wall Street Journal report gone up to more than 5,200 breaking the record set by Typhoon Uring (international code name Thelma) in 1991 which killed about 5,100 people a large proportion of which was in Ormoc which suffered flash floods and mudslides that killed more than 4,900.

Mass burial of dead left by Typhoon Yolanda
Mass burial of dead left by Typhoon Yolanda
Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III had previously assured CNN news reporter Christiane Amanpour in the initial days following Yolanda’s departure from the Philippines that the death toll was likely to be “only” about 2,500. But, the Wall Street Journal continues…

The latest official count nearly doubles the high-end estimate released by President Benigno Aquino III in the days after the storm, when he urged the country to remain calm after a provincial official said that 10,000 could be dead. The official was removed from his post.

According to President BS Aquino, the original estimated death toll of 10,000 “came from local officials who perhaps were ‘too close’ to the center of destruction to make an accurate guess.” That official, Elmer Soria, the chief superintendent for the central Philippines province of Leyte, was reportedly fired for “sharing the alarming estimate, which was quickly a focus of reports from the local news media and international news organizations.” The official explanation issued by the Philippine National Police (PNP) was that Soria was “relieved from his post” because “he might need to go through a stress debriefing.”

Perceptions that Soria’s dismissal was “wrongful” have reportedly been mounting. An online petition had recently been organised calling for his reinstatement and is resonating across circles that suspect that the Aquino government is downplaying the extent of the crisis…

The petition, initiated by a group called San Marcelino Zambales International, cited news reports that Soria “incurred the ire of government officials for expressing his view on Haiyan/Yolanda’s rampage in Eastern Visayas.”

As of this posting, it has gathered 291 signatures.

“Whether the death toll is 2,000 or 10,000, the numbers do not really matter,” it said. “The devastation of Leyte, Samar, Antique and other areas is complete. Suppressing and/or deliberately underestimating the mortality rate will not change the fact that many people died as a result of the cataclysmic natural disaster for which the nation and its leaders were unprepared and unable to cope with the magnitude of the loss and destruction.”

It called Soria’s estimate “far more on point than what the current government and its leaders are willing to accept and acknowledge.”

Most of the dead were victims of violent storm surges at the height of Yolanda’s strike and that many more possibly swept out to sea could remain unaccounted for for weeks. And with relief efforts hampered by logistical challenges and poor coordination, many more could succumb to disease and exposure to the elements.

Dr. Richard Brennan of the World Health Organization (WHO), called the challenges in the coming weeks “monumental.”

Brennan says the most immediate health concerns are tetanus and untreated injuries that pose a risk of infection. In the next days and weeks, poor sanitation and overcrowding pose a high risk of diarrheal and respiratory diseases.

“Those who have survived this disaster are going to suffer from dehydration, starvation and diseases that have to do with lack of access to clean water,” says Dr. Hilarie Cranmer, a disaster medical relief specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital who spent months in post-tsunami Indonesia and responded to the Haitian quake. “The most common problem will be death due to dehydration from diarrhea.”

The WHO have also warned against mass burials which are already on-going in the most devastated areas left by the storm. Many of the dead being buried had not been identified. The WHO also confirmed the Philippine Department of Health’s (DOH) advisory that decaying corpses do not pose a risk of infectious diseases spreading.

“The widespread belief that corpses pose a risk of communicable disease is wrong. Especially if death resulted from trauma, bodies are quite unlikely to cause outbreaks of diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera, or plague,” said the WHO.

Typhoon Sendong dead, northern Mindanao 2011
Typhoon Sendong dead, northern Mindanao 2011
In the Philippines, however, there are no state facilities for processing the deceased. As is with even the most basic services, Filipinos rely on private enterprise to fill the gap — in this case, funeral parlors. Back in 2011, when Typhoon Sendong devastated the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in northern Mindanao, there were even reports that mass graves were being dug in garbage dump sites despite the same DOH advisory regarding corpses being issued then.

Back in 2011, in the aftermath of the Typhoon Sendong disaster, I wrote

Indeed, the people of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan are not the victims of Typhoon Sendong per se. They are the victims of systemic factors that made Sendong far deadlier than it should have been. They are victims of our collective inability to learn — a collective character all but reflected by the people we elect to the highest offices of the land.

The next big Philippine disaster is just around the corner — as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow. Do we plan to learn anything from this one?

I guess not.

[Photos of Typhoons Yolanda (2013) and Sendong (2011) disastera courtesy NBCNews.com and Ako si Rabsky respectively.]

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19 Comments on “Yolanda death toll estimate hits 5,200+ breaking previous record set by Uring in 1991”

  1. “They are victims of our collective inability to learn – a collective character all but reflected by the people we elect to the highest offices of the land. The next big Philippine disaster is just around the corner — as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow. Do we plan to learn anything from this one?”

    This is really what its all about. How can a country prepare itself for any next disaster?

    I am not an expert in this field of damage control and or disaster-manegement but I would certainly start by building better houses/homes with a proper foundation and made of bricks/concrete. And if the number of people in one household were less, there would also be less lives to suffer.

    Now, from the side of the national/city govermnet (LGU) there should be a contingency plan containing evacuation in time. And the national government (army, PNP) should prepare its army to help, rescue, clean up, remove, relief.

    1. No accountability is the problem. The Romualdez’s (Imelda Marcos’ family) has been passing congressional seats between each other like they belong to them. A Romualdez has been the mayor of Tacloban again and again. Apostol and his wife have passed the congressional seat between themselves again and again. You remember Sergio Apostol..(chief legal officer for GMA who engineered the pardon of Estrada…legal consultant for SSS; who with his buddies on the board, pocketed kickbacks from banks for steering pension funds there way.) Vote buying is endemic in Leyte. That is one of the reasons that the same families keep winning seats.

    2. Ah, yes, about housing for the survivors of Yolanda — the Philippine Star’s Boo Chanco alerted me to this —

      http://www.buzzfeed.com/kristinchirico/surprisingly-gorgeous-homes-made-from-shipping-containers

      — I don’t know if someone in government has taken up Boo’s suggestion (or looked into the costs involved in shipping and adapting them for residential use — apparently the Chinese have built homes and commercial establishments out of these), but it’s tailor-made for the situation in the Visayas (and for whoever loses his house to the next big disaster, a thing a lot of us Pinoys are going to do for a long while yet).

  2. Where and when has a defective psyche like BS Aquino learned mortality statistics in determining death estimates? Is he learned on this subject? Was he on the ground in Leyte prior to the monster storm making landfall? Did he personally order disaster people to make a worst case scenario disaster operation plan to meet the needs of the aftermath of the disaster? This so-called leader is fond of blame games. In trying to order the “doctoring” of the number of casualties BS Aquino was trying to save his own skin because of his own shortcomings. He had no foresight of what was coming in and failed even to plan for a worst case scenario. Damn you BS Aquino! Stop blaming others just to look good! You are a sick mind!

  3. @ GRP, to finally ask a question of you, as to what it is, your purpose? is it to “’emphasize the trivial, the sentimental and give the people’/filippine society ‘what it wants'” or is it to ‘inform, arouse, and indicate the crises and choices so to educate and even anger'” your readers/the Filipino public?

    To publicly slander and criticize the present and past admins. as the ‘bread and circuses’ for the massa(the trivial)? or to present the obvious illness’s so thoroughly present in filippine society today(educate ,call to action)? or both?
    a path carved to a solution to societies problems and in the process to educate ,not manipulate, people about what is ailing the country and, again, to offer up concrete solutions as to how preparing for future catastrophies (a very present danger) ,defeating corruption as well as other massive problems faced by the country today seems a more likely avenue to venture down, rather than the tearing down of others so as to appear as crabs trying in vain to climb out of a toilet.

    Lets hear it, WHAT?

  4. Mr. Aquino tried to downplay, his stupidity, by guesstimating the number of dead. He even fired the guy, who gave a good estimate. The count of 10,000 or more dead is a good estimate. The count of 2,000 estimated death or less, is too low.
    It is irrelevant, to argue on who is right or who is wrong. Corpses are rotting everywhere. Mr. Aquino and Mr. Roxas, should pick up those corpses and bury them. Instead of uselessly focusing on the death count.

    1. So now its the President of the countries job to clean up dead bodies after disasters? You really seem to want a lot out of the guy! IDK,filippines and all, but I think that it is probably not in his job description.

      1. Per Mar Roxas and the rest of the Student Government;

        The bodies are not living or dead until they are “properly identified”. Even though said bodies show no vital signs (heartbeat, BP, respiration), bodies are in advanced stages of rigor mortis and are severely bloated, the bodies are not considered DEAD until a name can be attached to them… Much like the theory itself, the Student Government exists outside the boundaries of reality.

  5. So there is folly in relying on private enterprises for everything. Especially if those private enterprises were never known to be service-oriented or efficient.

  6. Benign0

    The daily NDRRMC UPDATE on the “Effects of Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ (Haiyan)” includes a Tab A on casualties (dead. Injured and missing), showing the name, age/sex, address and the region, province, municipality or barangay where the dead are recovered.

    The latest 96-page UPDATE, as of Nov. 24, 2013, 6:00 AM (Situational Report No. 38), at pages 1 to 6 of Tab A, shows that around 94% of the 5,235 grand total reported dead were found in Region VIII with 4,919 fatalities, compared with the 316 individuals found dead in all the other regions. (No evening update today)
    http://www.ndrrmc.gov.ph/attachments/article/1125/NDRRMC%20Update%20-%20Sitrep%20No%2038%20re%20Typhoon%20Yolanda.pdf

    Add the 1,613 missing for two weeks now, the total would be 6,848 individuals.

    But what is befuddling in this data is that ALL of the 4,919 individuals reported dead in Region VIII (at page 6) are listed as UNIDENTIFIED, nameless and unknown, unlike most of the 316 (save perhaps for 9 or so) individuals found dead in the other regions whose name, age, sex and other data are listed.

    In other words, the latest update merely iterates the rather implausible data in earlier updates that not one dead body found in Region VIII – and there are 4,919 of them, to repeat for emphasis — has been identified.

    Of course, this would mean that ALL those who died in Region VIII were total strangers – with no relatives, friends or neighbors to identify them; they were virtually unknown to all the others who survived nearby or within the immediate vicinity.

    This data on Region VIII that the NDRRMC UPDATE provides daily is indeed rather odd.

    NOTE: The ICRC provides a manual on dead bodies below:

    Management of dead bodies after disasters: a field manual for first responders.
    http://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/other/irrc_866_tidball-binz.pdf (2007)

    http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/publication/p0880.htm (2009)

    Plus a family links site:
    http://familylinks.icrc.org/yolanda-typhoon/en/Pages/home.aspx

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