MANILA, Philippines – One of the strongest storms on record has killed more than 100 people and injured another 100 in the central Philippines as it wiped away buildings and leveled seaside homes before sweeping west toward Vietnam on Saturday, still packing destructive winds.
Capt. John Andrews, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said he had received "reliable information" from his staff describing the death and destruction Typhoon Haiyan wreaked in Tacloban city on Leyte Island, where the storm made landfall Friday.
He told The Associated Press that more than 100 bodies were lying in the streets and another 100 people were injured.
He said civil aviation authorities in Tacloban, about 580 kilometers (360 miles) southwest of Manila, reported that the seaside airport terminal was "ruined" by storm surges. Radio messages to the capital, Manila, had to be relayed through another airport in the central Philippines once every five hours to conserve radio batteries.
Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, a senior aide to President Benigno Aquino III, said that the number of casualties could not be immediately determined, but that the figure was "probably in that range" given by Andrews. Government troops were helping recover bodies, he said.
U.S. Marine Col. Mike Wyle, who surveyed the damage in Tacloban prior to possible American assistance, said that the damage to the runway was significant. Military planes were still able to land with relief aid.
"The storm surge came in fairly high and there is significant structural damage and trees blown over," he told the AP.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that America stood ready to help.
Joseph de la Cruz, who hitched a ride on a military plane from Tacloban back to Manila, said he had counted at least 15 bodies.
"A lot of the dead were scattered," he said, adding that he walked for about eight hours to reach the Tacloban airport.
The Philippine television station GMA reported its news team saw 11 bodies, including that of a child, washed ashore Friday and 20 more bodies at a pier in Tacloban hours after the typhoon ripped through the coastal city.
At least 20 more bodies were taken to a church in nearby Palo town that was used as an evacuation center but had to be abandoned when its roofs were blown away, the TV network reported. TV images showed howling winds peeling off tin roof sheets during heavy rain.
Ferocious winds felled large branches and snapped coconut trees. A man was shown carrying the body of his 6-year-old daughter who drowned, and another image showed vehicles piled up in debris.
Nearly 800,000 people were forced to flee their homes and damage was believed to be extensive. About 4 million people were affected by the typhoon, the national disaster agency said.
Relief workers said they were struggling to find ways to deliver food and other supplies, with roads blocked by landslides and fallen trees.
Weather officials said Haiyan had sustained winds of 235 kph (147 mph) with gusts of 275 kph (170 mph) when it made landfall. By those measurements, Haiyan would be comparable to a strong Category 4 hurricane in the U.S., nearly in the top category, a 5.
Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are the same thing. They are just called different names in different parts of the world.
The typhoon's sustained winds weakened Saturday to 163 kph (101 mph) with stronger gusts as it blew farther away from the Philippines toward Vietnam.
Vietnamese authorities in four central provinces began evacuating more than 500,000 people from high risk areas to government buildings, schools and other concrete homes able to withstand strong winds.
"The evacuation is being conducted with urgency and must be completed before 5 p.m.," disaster official Nguyen Thi Yen Linh by telephone from central Danang City, where some 76,000 are being moved to safety.
Hundreds of thousands of others were being taken to shelters in the provinces of Quang Ngai, Quang Nam and Thua Thien Hue. Schools were closed and two deputy prime ministers were sent to the region to direct the preparations.
The typhoon was forecast to make landfall around 10 a.m. Sunday between Danang and Quang Ngai and move up the northeast coast of Vietnam.
Eduardo del Rosario, head of the Philippines' disaster response agency, said the speed at which the typhoon sliced through the central islands — 40 kph (25 mph) — helped prevent its 600-kilometer (375-mile) band of rain clouds from dumping enough of their load to overflow waterways, which would make destruction even worse. Flooding from heavy rains is often the main cause of deaths from typhoons.
Associated Press writer Minh Tran in Hanoi, Vietnam, contributed to this report.