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Philippines announces Haiyan toll tops 5,000

The Philippines national disaster agency has announced that Super Typhoon Haiyan has killed more than 5,200 people. That total makes the November 8 storm the most deadly natural disaster ever to hit the country.

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Rescue efforts continue after Haiyan

Haiyan killed 5,209 people, injured about 23,500 and displaced 4 million, officials said Friday, with 1,600 still missing. The storm destroyed more than 1 million homes.

"It's not impossible that the number will increase, but as to how high we don't know," Interior Secretary Mar Roxas told reporters on Friday. "It's very sad, but we can say that we have passed the worst stage in this tragedy," he added.

Haiyan killed 4,919 in Eastern Visayas. Another 290 died in central and southern provinces affected by the November 8 typhoon, the national disaster relief agency announced. One of the strongest typhoons ever recorded, Haiyan caused more deaths and destruction than a 1991 storm that killed 5,101 people in flash floods in Ormoc, in the same hard-hit province of Leyte.

'Fine-tuned plan'

Called Yolanda locally, Haiyan brought winds of over 300 kilometers per hour (180 mph). The majority of victims either drowned or died under collapsed structures and trees, as storm surges 6 to 7 meters high (20-23 feet) swallowed coastal areas of Tacloban on Leyte island, the commercial, education and government hub of the Eastern Visayas. Disaster agency officials said the death toll could still increase, with only about 52 percent of the city of Tacloban cleared of debris.

Typhoon Haiyan also caused about 12.5 billion pesos ($274 million, 200 million euros) in damage to crops and infrastructure. A major concern for the authorities remains the resettlement of survivors, who have stayed in cramped, unsanitary evacuation centers or camped out in makeshift shacks near their flattened communities.

On Friday, President Benigno Aquino set up a task force to "hasten the transition of relief efforts into the full-scale rehabilitation and rebuilding of typhoon-damaged areas," said his spokesman, Herminio Coloma. "The president emphasized to the cabinet that a fine-tuned plan responsive to the specific needs at the community level is necessary," Coloma added.

Questions for rebuilding

Interior Secretary Roxas said the delivery of food and other relief supplies to the survivors had begun to move faster than in the first few days after Haiyan, and that authorities had put an end to looting by hungry survivors.

"We are now in the early stages of recovery and we are on the way to reconstruction and rebuilding of the affected areas," he added.

As part of rebuilding, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said the government had also begun preparations for the construction of bunkhouses using prefabricated buildings "more comfortable" than tents. Singson said the government would make an inventory of public land suitable for use as resettlement sites for survivors whose former communities officials considered dangerously close to the sea and vulnerable to future storms.

"There will probably be areas that will be declared no-build zones because of the high risk, and we will have to relocate the affected people to safe ground," Singson said.

mkg/ng (Reuters, dpa, AP)

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