MANILA —Up to 1,200 people are feared dead after Super Typhoon Haiyan — one of the most powerful storms ever recorded — slammed into the central islands of the Philippines, the Philippine Red Cross said Saturday.
That death toll estimate, made by Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross, comes from what the relief organization's workers have been reporting in the field, Richard Gordon, CEO of the Philippine Red Cross, told USA TODAY.
As Haiyan heads west toward Vietnam, the Red Cross is at the forefront of an international effort to provide food, water, shelter and other relief to the hundreds of thousands of residents who have lost their homes and livelihood, Gordon said.
"This is a big, full-court press," he said. "We're pulling out all the stops to help."
With widespread power outages, roads blocked, bridges down and debris strewn everywhere, getting life back to some semblance of normal in the region will take time.
"The Philippines are always resilient, and we're going to get back up," Gordon said.
Because communications in the Philippines were cutoff, it remains difficult to determine the full extent of casualties and damage.
"We expect the level of destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan to be extensive and devastating, and sadly we fear that many lives will be lost," said Anna Lindenfors, Philippines director of Save the Children.
"With this magnitude we know that the destruction is overwhelming," said Emma Amores, who was waiting outside Villamor Airbase in Manila, where a C-130 was loading relief supplies and personnel heading to hard-hit Tacloban. "From the images we saw on TV, it's highly likely our houses are gone. We just want to know that the family are all safe."
Romil Elinsuv, who is in Manila for work training, worried about his wife and 4-year-old son who are at their home in Palo, a town in the province of Leyte.
"I feel fear. I don't know what the situation is there," Elinsuv said. He said he spoke with his wife the day before. She assured him they were OK, but then the line went dead, and he's been unable to reach her since.
Super Typhoon Haiyan hit Guiuan, on the Philippine island of Samar, at 4:40 a.m. local time Friday. Three hours before landfall, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center assessed Haiyan's sustained winds at 195 mph, gusting to 235 mph, making it the fourth strongest tropical cyclone in world history.
The warning center uses satellites to estimate the wind speed of typhoons and hurricanes.
Satellite loops show that Haiyan weakened only slightly, if at all, in the two hours after JTWC's advisory, so the super typhoon likely made landfall with winds near 195 mph, reports meteorologist Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground, a private meteorology company. This is equivalent to a strong Category 5 hurricane.
Weather officials in the Philippines, using other methods of measuring wind speed, said Haiyan had sustained winds of 147 mph with gusts to 170 mph when it made landfall. By those measurements, Haiyan would be comparable to a strong Category 4 hurricane.