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Haiyan hits Vietnam as Philippines death toll mounts


Typhoon Haiyan slammed into Vietnam on Monday, after killing thousands of people in the Philippines where rescue workers are still struggling to reach the most devastated areas.


Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in Vietnam as a tropical storm on Monday, having weakened significantly after flattening thousands of homes and killing an estimated 10,000 people in the Philippines.

The storm is now moving toward southern China, where it is expected to weaken to a low depression later Monday.

Rescue workers in the Philippines are reportedly still struggling to reach the most devastated areas.

The typhoon lashed six central Philippine islands on Friday and appears to be the deadliest storm - and natural disaster - on record to hit the country with winds that reached up to 195 miles per hour (313 km per hour) and gusts of up to 235 mph (378 kph).

Witnesses have described chaotic scenes, with corpses hanging from trees, being scattered on sidewalks or simply being buried in flattened buildings.

Hampered relief efforts

Officials have so far estimated the number of deaths in the Philippines at around 10,000, but with relief operations being severely hampered in many areas as roads, airports and bridges had been destroyed or blocked, that number may climb as rescue workers attempt to reach remote villages along the coast that were severely hit by the storm. Many evacuation centers reportedly were destroyed and officials said scores of people who had sought refuge there drowned or were swept away.

The government has not confirmed officials’ estimated death toll.

Haiyan is estimated to have destroyed about 70 to 80 percent of the structures in its path as it tore into the coastal provinces of Leyte and Samar in the Philippines ahead of the weekend. Most of the damage and deaths were caused by huge waves that inundated towns and swept away coastal villages in scenes that officials likened to the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Nearly 620,000 people have been displaced and 9.5 million "affected" across nine regions, the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement.

No food or water

“Reaching the worst affected areas is very difficult, with limited access due to the damage caused by the typhoon to infrastructure and communications,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Tomoo Hozumi told the Associated Press.

According to the United Nations some survivors have no food, water or medicine.

A heavily pregnant woman told Reuters that all of her 11 family members, including two daughters, had perished in the storm. “I can’t think right now,” she said. “I am overwhelmed.”

Local officials also reported a mass grave of 300-500 bodies in the devastated city of Tacloban, the capital of Leyte province, , where President Benigno Aquino III is considering declaring a state of emergency or martial law. Hundreds of Philippine troops and police have arrived in the city to try to contain looting which risks hampering rescue efforts there.

In response to the disaster in the Philippines, the world has mobilised to provide aid and emergency relief, including from the United States, Australia and the United Nations.

The Pentagon is sending military staff and equipment while the UN Children’s fund UNICEF said a cargo plane carrying 60 tonnes of aid including shelters and medicine would arrive on Tuesday. Water purification and sanitation equipment will follow, it said.

More than 650,000 people were evacuated in Vietnam over the weekend, but state media said that all of the evacuees had now returned home.

National disaster officials in Vietnam said no deaths had been reported so far, although state media said five people had died during preparations for the typhoon which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm.

(FRANCE 24 with news wires)

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