Despite the official death count released by the Philippines' National Disaster and Relief Coordinating Council, local reporters in Samar and Leyte have allegedly caught government officials deliberately hiding the real number of deaths caused by Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda.
According to the local journalists as reported in the Philippine Star, they saw the figure 5,016 on the bulletin board tally based on the number of corpses recovered. However, the number was changed to 3,422 and was announced the official tally as of Nov. 16.
It was worth noting that before Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino III said the government's target was "zero casualty" in the aftermath of the storm. It was clear after Haiyan's devastation that the government target was no longer possible.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Alan Purisima removed Police Regional Office Chief Supt. Elmer Soria when the latter had said 10,000 were feared dead in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. President Aquino had earlier estimated the deaths to be not greater than 2,500.
The Philippine president has received criticisms from both the local and international community including CNN's renowned international correspondent Anderson Cooper who revealed through his show, Anderson 360, that relief efforts were not moving as quickly as they should be.
The alleged 5,016 death toll was the official count of the Office of Civil Defence (OCD) Region 8. The local reporters who were there said the figure should have been the official count to be sent to the NDRRMC in Camp Aguinaldo.
When the local reporters wanted an explanation for the new and reduced figures, one of the officials from OCD Region 8 said they were reprimanded by Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas for revealing the true number of deaths. Mr Roxas allegedly wanted the number reduced at 3,422 at that time.
As of Nov. 17, NDRRMC reported 3,976 dead, 18,175 injured and 1,590 missing.
UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos said the victims of the Category 5 storm in Samar and Leyte provinces have fought for limited relief goods. Some have died waiting for help to arrive. Ms Amos said "the situation is dismal" as people become increasingly vulnerable to disease, dehydration and starvation six days after Typhoon Haiyat wreaked havoc. She said in a press briefing in Manila that the fast delivery of aid is the UN's immediate priority.
The arrival of more foreign aid has helped speed up the ongoing relief operations in typhoon-hit areas like Tacloban and other towns in Samar and Leyte.