Eight bodies had been laid to rest inside Tacloban airport's chapel, which had also been badly damaged, according to an AFP photographer. One woman knelt on the flood-soaked floor of the church while holding the hand of a dead boy, who had been placed on a wooden pew.
Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla reached the fishing town of Palo, about 10 kilometers from Tacloban, by helicopter and said he believed "hundreds" of people had died just in that area.
Pope Francis tweeted his support for the typhoon victims: "I ask all of you to join me in prayer for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda especially those in the beloved islands of the Philippines."
Race to Reach Decimated Communities
Meanwhile, the military, government relief workers and non-government organizations battled to reach communities and deliver desperately needed supplies. Fifteen thousand soldiers were in the disaster zones and helping in the rescue effort, military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala told AFP. Zagala said helicopters were flying rescuers into priority areas, while infantry units deployed across the affected areas were also proceeding on foot or in military trucks.
Haiyan's wind strength, which remained close to 300 kilometers an hour throughout Friday, made it the strongest typhoon in the world this year and one of the most intense ever recorded. It exited into the South China Sea on Saturday and tracked towards Vietnam, where more than 200,000 people crammed into storm shelters.
Philippine authorities had expressed confidence on Friday that only a few people had been killed, citing two days of intense preparation efforts led by President Benigno Aquino. Nearly 800,000 people in danger zones had been moved to evacuation centers, while thousands of boats across the archipelago were ordered to remain secured at ports. Hundreds of flights were also cancelled.
Aquino said on Saturday night it appeared some communities had not heeded the warnings. "I hesitate to say this, but it seems that Tacloban was not that prepared, shall we say, compared with other areas," he told reporters in Manila.
An average of 20 major storms or typhoons, many of them deadly, batter the Philippines each year as they emerge from the Pacific Ocean. The Philippines suffered the world's strongest storm of 2012, when Typhoon Bopha left about 2,000 people dead or missing on the southern island of Mindanao. Haiyan is expected to make landfall in central Vietnam early Sunday, with millions of people thought to be in its path.
Authorities have begun mass evacuations in at least four central coastal provinces, Vietnam's state-run VNExpress news site said, as the country was put on high alert.