, TACLOBAN, Nov 23 – The number of people dead or missing after one of the world’s strongest typhoons struck the Philippines climbed towards 7,000 on Saturday, as the United Nations warned much more needed to be done to help desperate survivors.
The government’s confirmed death toll rose to 5,235, with another 1,613 people still missing more than two weeks after Super Typhoon Haiyan destroyed entire towns across a long stretch of islands in the central Philippines.
Haiyan now rivals a 1976 tsunami on the southern island of Mindanao as the deadliest recorded natural disaster to strike the Philippines, which endures a never ending battle against typhoons, earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions.
The typhoon has triggered a giant, international relief effort, with dozens of countries and relief organisations rushing to deliver food, water and health services to more than four million people who lost their homes.
However UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, after visiting the disaster zones, warned the world was still not responding fast enough to the disaster.
“Much more needs to be done. Food, clean water and shelter remain the top priorities,” Amos said as a UN appeal for funds was raised from $301 million to $348 million.
Amos said huge numbers of people were still exposed to bad weather in the nine provinces ravaged by the storm, as she warned particularly of the dangers for babies, children and mothers.
“I am very concerned that some 1.5 million children are at risk of acute malnutrition and close to 800,000 pregnant and nursing mothers need nutritional help,” Amos told a news conference at UN headquarters.
The World Bank on Friday added $480 million in emergency aid to the Philippines, taking its support to nearly $1 billion. The Asian Development Bank has also offered $500 million concessionary loans.
The US military has performed the highest profile role in the relief effort, sending an aircraft carrier that arrived six days after the disaster that finally allowed relief supplies to start reaching isolated communities.
Japan also sent more than 1,000 troops aboard three vessels that arrived on Thursday night, in what is the biggest overseas deployment of the country’s military since its defeat in World War II nearly 70 years ago.
China, which is embroiled in a long running territorial dispute with the Philippines, dispatched a 300-bed hospital ship, while Australia, Britain and Indonesia are among many other nations to have also sent military support.
The number of people confirmed killed jumped by nearly 1,200 on Friday to 5,209, as confirmed body counts were made in some flattened communities, the spokesman for the government’s disaster management council, Reynaldo Balido, told AFP.
“If you notice, there was not much movement in the death toll for the past few days. This was because the reporting rules required a casualty report signed by the city mayor and his health officer,” he told AFP on Friday night.
“Now, the reports are coming in from the entire typhoon area.”
The death toll rose marginally again on Saturday morning, and was expected to continue rising over the coming days and weeks.
The typhoon on November 8 brought some of the strongest winds ever recorded and generated tsunami like storm surges that flattened dozens of towns.
In Tacloban, the capital of Leyte province in the eastern Philippines where five metre (16 feet) waves destroyed most buildings, 1,727 people have been confirmed dead. Another 451 remain missing.
The magnitude of the disaster has continued to stun and overwhelm President Benigno Aquino’s administration. A few days after the disaster, Aquino said he expected the death toll would be between 2,000 and 2,500.
The Philippines is so prone to natural disasters because it is located along a typhoon belt and the so called Ring of Fire, a vast Pacific Ocean region where many of Earth’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.
But the only other natural disaster to compare with Haiyan for ferocity was the tsunami triggered by a magnitude 7.9 earthquake in 1976 that killed between 5,000 and 8,000 people on Mindanao.