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PNoy probes death toll

Questions ‘extraordinarily high’ Yolanda casualties
PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III ordered two Cabinet members Friday to look into what he described as the “extraordinarily high” number of casualties in some areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda on Nov. 8.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said these areas included Tacloban City, Tolosa, Tanauan, Palo, Dulag and other nearby areas, which, according to statistics, accounted for more than 90 percent of all the casualties.

Mr. Aquino tapped Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo to look into the number of casualties and correlate them to satellite images that measured the severity of the typhoon’s impact.

“There are available satellite tracking records that will show not only the impact of the typhoon but also the areas that were hit hardest,” Coloma quoted Montejo as saying during a meeting with the President.

Opposition lawmakers immediately attacked the President’s order, with Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan describing it as “strange.”

She said the President should be concerned with the suffering survivors, not the dead.

“He should be more concerned with the distribution of relief, which is severely hampered by politicking,” Ilagan added.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon slammed the President’s call for a fact-finding body to assess the death toll on super typhoon Yolanda.

“The exact death toll should be reflected without hedging by Malacanang. It gives dignity and honor to the countless and nameless dead. It also reflects gross government’s incompetence in preparing and responding to Yolanda,” Ridon said.

Isabela Rep. Rodoflo Albano III expressed concern over what he said was the Palace’s “obsession” with the death toll.

But administration ally and House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna supported the President’s call for a probe, saying this information could be used to prevent the same devastation from happening again.

The latest report from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council showed that the death toll had climbed to 5,209, 23,404 injured and 1,611 missing.

Task Force Cadaver, which is in charge of collecting the bodies of those killed during the typhoon, has already accounted for 1,755 bodies since Saturday, when they started collecting cadavers from Tacloban City, which was flattened by the typhoon.

Earlier, the President told CNN that initial estimates of 10,000 dead were too high, and that the death toll was most likely between 2,000 and 2,500.

The official count has long since surpassed the President’s estimate, but reports on the actual toll varied.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II admitted on Friday that the toll from Yolanda had reached more than 5,000 deaths, 4,919 of which were from Eastern Visayas.

Roxas said at a press briefing that Task Force Cadaver had collected 1,755 bodies from Tacloban City alone, but said the figure had yet to be validated.

Eduardo del Rosario, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said the figure Roxas mentioned did not include 290 other deaths from other regions.

“If we include all regions, our tally will be 5,209 dead [excluding the unvalidated 1,755 deaths in Tacloban City], 23,404 injured and 1,611 missing. That is our latest figure,” Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario again denied that he had been ordered to stop releasing death toll figures and explained that the tally stalled at 4,011 on Thursday because the disaster agency was still waiting for reports from the field.

“Let us settle that. There are accusations that... we received orders not to release the figures. That is not true,” Del Rosario said. With Francisco Tuyay and Maricel V. Cruz

 

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