* Aquino under mounting pressure over aid distribution
* Police official who estimated 10,000 dead removed from
* Relief efforts pick up with arrival of U.S. aircraft
* "We are very, very worried about millions of
(Adds U.N. comment, quotes)
By Stuart Grudgings and Aubrey Belford
TACLOBAN, Philippines, Nov 15 The death toll
from one of the world's most powerful typhoons surged to about
4,000 on Friday, but the aid effort was still so patchy bodies
lay uncollected as rescuers tried to evacuate stricken
communities across the central Philippines.
After long delays, hundreds of international aid workers set
up makeshift hospitals and trucked in supplies, while
helicopters from a U.S. aircraft carrier ferried medicine and
water to remote areas levelled by Typhoon Haiyan a week ago.
"We are very, very worried about millions of children,"
U.N. Children's Fund spokesman Marixie Mercado told reporters in
A U.N. official said in a guarded compliment many countries
had come forward to help.
"The response from the international community has not been
overwhelming compared to the magnitude of the disaster, but it
has been very generous so far," Jens Laerke of the Office for
the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told the Geneva news
Captain Victoriano Sambale, a military doctor who since
Saturday has treated patients in a room strewn with dirt and
debris in Tacloban, which bore the brunt of the storm, said
there had been a change in the pace in the response.
"I can see the international support coming here," he said.
"Day one we treated 600-plus patients. Day two we had 700-plus
patients. Day three we lost our count."
President Benigno Aquino, caught off guard by the scale of
the disaster, has been criticised for the slow pace of aid
distribution and unclear estimates of casualties, especially in
Tacloban, capital of hardest-hit Leyte province.
A notice board in Tacloban City Hall estimated the deaths at
4,000 on Friday, up from 2,000 a day before, in that town alone.
Hours later, Tacloban mayor Alfred Romualdez apologised and said
the toll was for the whole central Philippines.
The toll, marked up on a whiteboard, is compiled by
officials who started burying bodies in a mass grave on
Romualdez said some people may have been swept out to sea
and their bodies lost after a tsunami-like wall of seawater
slammed into coastal areas. One neighbourhood with a population
of between 10,000 and 12,000 was now deserted, he said.
The City Hall toll was the first public acknowledgement that
the number of fatalities would likely far exceed an estimate
given this week by Aquino, who said lives lost would be closer
to 2,000 or 2,500.
Official confirmed deaths nationwide rose by more than 1,200
overnight to 3,621 on Friday. Adding to the confusion, the
United Nations, citing government figures, put the latest
overall death toll at 4,460, but a spokeswoman said it was now
reviewing the figure.
"I hope it will not rise anymore. I hope that is the final
number," Eduardo del Rosario, director of the National Disaster
Risk Reduction and Management Council, said of the latest
official toll. "If it rises, it will probably be very slight."
On Tuesday, Aquino said estimates of 10,000 dead by local
officials were overstated and caused by "emotional trauma".
Elmer Soria, a regional police chief who gave that estimate to
media, was removed from his post on Thursday.
National police spokesman Reuben Sindac said Soria had
experienced an "acute stress reaction" and had been transferred
to headquarters in Manila. But a senior police official told
Reuters he believed Soria was re-assigned because of his
unauthorised casualty estimate.
U.S. HELICOPTERS AID RELIEF EFFORT
But massive logistical problems remain. Injured survivors
waited in long lines under searing sun for treatment. Local
authorities reported shortages of body bags, gasoline and staff
to collect the dead.
"Bodies are still lying on the roads. But now at least
they're in sections with department of health body bags," Ian
Norton, chief of a team of Australian aid workers, told Reuters.
Stunned survivors in Tacloban said the toll could be many
thousands. "There are a lot of dead people on the street in our
neighbourhood, by the trash," said Aiza Umpacan, a 27-year-old
resident of San Jose, one of the worst-hit neighbourhoods.
"There are still a lot of streets that were not visited by
the disaster relief operations. They are just going through the
highways, not the inner streets," he said. "The smell is getting
worse and we actually have neighbours who have been brought to
hospital because they are getting sick."
The preliminary number of missing as of Friday, according to
the Red Cross, rose to 25,000 from 22,000 a day earlier. That
could include people who have since been located, it said.
The nuclear-powered USS George Washington aircraft carrier
and accompanying ships arrived off eastern Samar province on
Thursday evening, carrying 5,000 crew and more than 80 aircraft.
U.S. sailors have brought food and water ashore in Tacloban
and the eastern Samar province town of Guiuan whose airport was
a U.S. naval air base in World War Two. The carrier is moored
near where U.S. General Douglas MacArthur's force landed on Oct.
20, 1944, in one of the biggest Allied victories.
Acting U.S. Ambassador Brian Goldbeck, the chargé d'affaires
at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, said the United States had moved
174,000 kg (383,000 lb) of emergency supplies into affected
areas and evacuated nearly 3,000 people.
A Norwegian merchant navy training vessel arrived at
Tacloban on Friday with goods from the U.N. World Food
Programme, including 40 tonnes of rice, medical equipment and
6,200 body bags.
THOUSANDS TRY TO EVACUATE
Boxes of aid were being unloaded at Tacloban's badly damaged
airport, where more than a thousand people queued for hours
hoping to evacuate.
Hundreds of people, part of nearly a million who have been
displaced by the storm, lined up for food and drink at an
evacuee processing centre at Mactan Air Base in Cebu, the
country's second-biggest city.
Some 522 evacuees passed through the centre on Thursday,
with hundreds more arriving on Friday, a government coordinator,
Erlinda Parame, said.
In one room, children huddled on a mud-streaked floor
watching cartoons on a small television.
Nearby, Gerardo Alvarez, 53, sat strapped to a metal
wheelchair, straining against the bandages that restrained him.
"The water is coming! I'm going to die!" he shouted.
The traumatised man had escaped the storm surge from a
second-storey window of his Tacloban home while his sister and
mother, who were praying downstairs, drowned.
(Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco and Eric dela Cruz
and Manuel Mogato in Manila, Michelle Nichols at the United
Nations and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva. Writing by Jason Szep.
Editing by Dean Yates and Nick Macfie)