Manila: About 1,200 people are believed to have died when one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded hit the Philippines, the head of the local Red Cross said on Saturday.
Philippine Red Cross secretary general Gwendolyn Pang said the figure of 1,200 was an estimate, with authorities yet to get an accurate assessment from many devastated communities.
"It`s an estimate. Somebody else has to do the counting," Pang told AFP.
Super Typhoon Haiyan tore into the eastern islands of Leyte and Samar yesterday with sustained winds of around 315 kilometres an hour, then tormented millions of people as it ripped across the Southeast Asian archipelago.
After reaching the devastated fishing town of Palo in Leyte by helicopter, Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said he believed "hundreds" of people had died just in that area.
Petilla, a Palo native, was dispatched by President Benigno Aquino to survey the island and said there were similar scenes of carnage in three other cities or towns in Leyte.
"They all looked the same. The roofs were off all the buildings they were littered with fallen trees," he said.
Some of the worst-hit areas on Leyte and Samar, isolated by destroyed power and communication lines as well as damaged roads, had yet to be contacted.
More than four million people were affected across 36 provinces, the government said.
Aside from the ferocious winds, Haiyan generated storm surges that saw waves three metres high swamp coastal towns and power inland.
"This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumble weed and the streets are strewn with debris," said Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, the head of a United Nations disaster assessment coordination team.