MANILA, Philippines — As rescue workers fan out across the Philippines, they have found whole towns destroyed by Super Typhoon Haiyan, which battered the country on Friday. Authorities said Sunday they feared as many as 10,000 people or more could be dead.
More than 150,000 people have also been left homeless so far by the biggest storm of 2013.
The United Nations said it expected "the worst," adding that the death toll for one town alone may have been above 10,000. The government in Manila declared a national emergency, as US marines joined relief efforts to find survivors.
The official death toll stood at 942, three days after the storm.
The United States government announced $20 million in humanitarian assistance, according to US AID. Supplies will include food aid, shelter materials and hygiene kits, to prevent the spread of disease and waterborne illnesses.
British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the UK would send a Royal Navy warship to help with disaster efforts. The UK would also increase its aid fromom 6 million pounds to 10 million pounds ($16 million).
Tacloban, a city on the eastern island of Leyte, took the brunt of Haiyan's fury and was practically leveled. Homes and bridges were destroyed and sturdy structures like the Palo Cathedral had their roofs ripped away by record-breaking winds.
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said in a statement that "local officials estimate that some 10,000 people were killed" in Tacloban alone.
Electricity providers had cut power in the city as a preventive public safety measure. The storm also knocked out communications in Tacloban and destroyed roads and bridges, delaying efforts to deliver relief goods to the city and its suburbs. One evacuation center in the city's Palo district was swept away by storm surges.
Local media reported isolated looting in Tacloban, broadcasting footage of the scene at Gaisano's, the city's largest shopping mall, and at smaller stores nearby.
The nearby provinces of Samar, Bohol and Zamboanga were also hit hard by the massive waves and winds. Samar and Bohol were still in the process of recovering from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake on Oct. 15.
Some 95 percent of houses in the town of Mambusao, in Capiz province, were damaged by Haiyan. Almost all houses in the coastal town of Sapian, also in Capiz, were completely washed away; 90 percent of the town's infrastructure was damaged. Authories estimate at least 10 million Philippine pesos' ($232,000) worth of damage to agriculture and fisheries in Capiz province, said Melvin Fabiana, field officer at the Department of the Interior and Local Governments.
On Saturday, Filipino netizens frantically searched social media for information about family and close friends in the most devastated cities and towns.
Users turned to a variety of social networks to follow the storm's progress in the Visayas islands and Mindanao, and to share news about where rescues were needed and information on how to help. Filipinos online comforted one another, prayed together and gathered donations of clothing, food, toiletries and other basic goods to send to the Central Visayas.
Haiyan exited the Philippines at 2 p.m. Manila time on Saturday, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomic Services Administration (PAGASA). The typhoon left the Philippines a weaker storm, packing winds of 115 miles per hour en route to Vietnam. Meterologists warned, however, that the storm could pick up speed as it crossed the seas.
PAGASA has since issued a wind warning for Luzon and the Visayas, saying that "strong to gale force winds associated with the surge of northeast monsoon enhanced by Typhoon [Haiyan]" are expected to affect the seaboards.
The seas themselves are expected to be very rough, and "fishing boats and other small seacraft are advised not to venture out into the sea while larger sea vessels are alerted against big waves.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), meanwhile, say they are working to restore communications in the Visayas.
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Casualty counts continued to trickle in. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman were due to visit the worst-hit areas on Sunday.
Aerial reconnaissance and damage assessment is ongoing, the military said.
The Department of Health has had all medical professionals in the affected areas working 24/7 in both operational medical facilities and in the field with rescue and relief crews. It has also dispatched 15 million pesos' worth ($347,000) of medicines and medical supplies.
The military said it will continue to assist the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) in re-establishing command post operations, assessing damage, and carrying out rescue and transport operations.