The death toll from a super typhoon that decimated entire towns in the Philippines could soar well over 10,000, authorities warned Sunday, making it the country's worst recorded natural disaster.
The horrifying estimates came as rescue workers appeared overwhelmed in their efforts to help countless survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which sent tsunami-like waves and merciless winds rampaging across a huge chunk of the archipelago on Friday.
Hundred of police and soldiers were deployed to contain looters in Tacloban, the devastated provincial capital of Leyte, while the United States announced it had responded to a Philippine government appeal and would send military help.
"Tacloban is totally destroyed. Some people are losing their minds from hunger or from losing their families," high school teacher Andrew Pomeda, 36, told AFP, as he warned of the increasing desperation of survivors. "People are becoming violent. They are looting business establishments, the malls, just to find food, rice and milk... I am afraid that in one week, people will be killing from hunger."
Authorities were struggling to even understand the sheer magnitude of the disaster, let alone react to it, with the regional police chief for Leyte saying 10,000 people were believed to have died in that province alone.
"We had a meeting last night with the governor and, based on the government's estimates, initially there are 10,000 casualties (dead)," Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria told reporters in Tacloban. "About 70 to 80 percent of the houses and structures along the typhoon's path were destroyed."
On the neighboring island of Samar, a local disaster chief said 300 people were killed in the small town of Basey.
He added another 2,000 were missing there and elsewhere on Samar, which was one of the first areas to be hit when Haiyan swept in from the Pacific Ocean with maximum sustained winds of 315 kilometers (195 miles) an hour.