Philippine typhoon death toll could reach 10,000

TACLOBAN, Philippines

Regional police chief Elmer Soria said he was briefed by Leyte provincial Gov. Dominic Petilla on Saturday and told there were about 10,000 deaths on the island, mostly by drowning and from collapsed buildings.

Tacloban city administrator Tecson Lim said that the death toll in the city alone "could go up to 10,000."

More powerful than Hurricane Katrina, with winds covering an area the size of Montana, is the devastating aftermath of the super typhoon. That storm is on the move, again heading toward land.

The storm has affected 4.3 million people in 36 provinces. Nearly 350,000 people are now displaced.

Military helicopters are now arriving, ferrying in food and supplies. The priority now, in the hardest hit city of Tacloban, is to clear the road to the airport so relief supplies can start moving in.

The devastation from the typhoon has left cities like Tacloban, on the hardest hit island of Leyte, in ruins. Homes were destroyed, boats swept off their moorings onto land, and the death toll mounting across the region.

"At first it was the ceilings that went off, and then the roofs began flying in all directions," one person said.

Residents walked the streets amid debris blown off roofs even as the country's military arrived to assist in rescue and recovery efforts.

Dramatic scenes during the storm showed Filipinos scrambling for safety anywhere, including rooftops.

Meanwhile on the ground, people used any means imaginable to save the stranded and elderly from the rising flood water.

Filipinos said the storm's surge of water was as high as trees.

Typhoon Haiyan is now described as the equivalent of a Category 4 Hurricane in the United States. Wind gusts during the storm were more than170 miles an hour.

Meanwhile the mayor of Palo Leyte, south of Tacloban, said the rescue effort was overwhelming.

"We have so many dead people, we don't have bags," Mayor Remedios Petilla said.

But even as the recovery begins in the Philippines, about 15 provinces in Vietnam are bracing for the storm to hit by evacuating hundreds of thousands and stacking sandbags against the expected onslaught.

It's expected to make landfall early Sunday.

The typhoon is expected to weaken to a tropical depression once it reaches North Vietnam.

Bay Area Filipinos try to get in touch with loved ones

More than 400,000 Bay Area residents consider themselves Filipino-Americans. Many are trying to get in touch with family and friends in the Philippines, but have been unable to do so. That includes a congregation in San Francisco, worried about their pastor.

Monsignor Fred Bitanga of Saint Patrick's Catholic Church in San Francisco was in the Philippines when the storm hit.

The congregation has tried to track him down, but can't get ahold of him.

Monsignor Bitanga is the pastor at the church where 50 Filipino-Americans are members. He was in Manila this week.

Even though that's not one of the hardest hit areas, the congregation wants to make sure he's okay.

One of the church members knows how destructive the storm can be. Typhoon Haiyan destroyed her sister's home this week.

"Their roof is not that concrete, so it's like flapping and it scared them," church member Nenette Murata said. "Yesterday I get a reply, just a short message, saying they're okay, but the house is gone. But the good thing is that, just thankful that they're alive. Things can be replaced, but lives couldn't."

The congregation will offer special prayers for their pastor and others at their Saturday 5 p.m. mass.

They encourage anyone to join them for prayer at Saint Patrick's on Mission Street.


(The Associated Press and ABC7 News reporter Sergio Quintana contributed to this report)

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