Aerial view of damaged coconut trees at a remote village in Dolores, Eastern Samar, central Philippines, after Typhoon Hagupit made landfall, 9 December 2014. Photo: Erik De Castro / REUTERS

By Erik de Castro, with additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco, Manny Mogato, Karen Lema, and Neil Jerome Morales in Manila; Writing by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Nick Macfie
9 December 2014

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine emergency workers were struggling on Tuesday to reach coastal villages on an island hardest hit by a typhoon where thousands of homes have been wrecked, suggesting the Red Cross's estimated death toll of 27 may rise.

Nearly 13,000 houses were crushed and more than 22,300 damaged on the eastern island of Samar, where Typhoon Hagupit made landfall on Saturday and made slow progress across the country, officials said.

The storm, one of several typhoons to hit the tropical archipelago each year, has since been downgraded to a tropical storm and was headed west towards Vietnam.

Roofs were ripped from houses, wooden huts were reduced to matchwood and coconut trees torn up by the roots. Most of the victims, on Samar and in Iloilo province to the west, were washed away in floods and some hit by fallen trees, the Philippine Red Cross said.

The official government death toll is only three.

"Access is very difficult. There are landslides, some are one-lane roads. In the inner barangays (villages), many of the roads have been washed out by flash floods," Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon said.

"…It's a long trek (to the villages), it's like Yolanda all over again," Gordon said, referring to super typhoon Haiyan, which hit the same area of the central Philippines last year.

But the damage was nowhere near that wrought by Haiyan, which destroyed or damaged more than a million homes.

Learning lessons from Haiyan, which left more than 7,000 dead or missing, authorities launched a massive evacuation operation days ahead of the storm, emptying whole towns and villages. […]

"We were inside an evacuation site when the roof caved in," a woman told local radio. "God saved us. There were no casualties. There will still be Christmas for us." […]

The National Grid Corp said nearly two million homes across the central Philippines and the south of the main island of Luzon were still without power. [more]

Philippine rescuers struggle to reach villages after typhoon 'folded homes like paper'



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