MANILA - Satellite images processed by a specialized United Nations programme reveal that super typhoon "Yolanda" (Haiyan) looked "very much like a tsunami" that eradicated entire towns in the Philippines, an analyst from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) said.
First satellite analysis reports released by UNOSAT said entire towns in the Philippines were "eradicated" by the super typhoon, said to be the world's most powerful to make landfall.
"Reports coming in from the Philippines and satellite imagery analysis converge in illustrating a disaster of vast proportions. According to figures released by Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 9.8 million people are affected by this emergency, with 2.5 million in need of food aid. The official death toll has reached 1,700 but as many as 10,000 are feared dead," a report on the UNITAR website said.
The UNITAR website provided a comparison of satellite images of several Leyte towns before and after the onslaught of "Yolanda."
The images, according to UNOSAT, showed "visible debris areas indicative of destruction."
Below are the images:
Destruction in Luntad, Leyte province (Images from UNOSAT)
Destruction in San Fernando, Leyte (Images from UNOSAT)
Destruction in Dulag, Leyte (Images from UNOSAT)
Destruction in Tabon, Leyte (Images from UNOSAT)
UNOSAT rapid mapping was activated by OCHA on Thursday 8 November, as the disaster occurred. UNOSAT also triggered the International Space Charter.
UNOSAT is a program that provides satellite solutions to humanitarian aid and sustainable development organizations. It is currently coordinating with the European Union Emergency Response Centre to address the needs of the humanitarian agencies involved in the relief operation.
UNOSAT is also appealing to residents in the affected areas to help determine the impact of the typhoon by sending their photos through the UN-ASIGN application.
Category 3 disaster
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the devastation caused by super typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines as a Category 3 disaster, the highest level.
Recent similar Category 3 disasters include the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the Haiti earthquake in 2010.
"The scale [of the typhoon's damage] is huge," the WHO's Dr. Richard Brennan told the US-based National Public Radio on Tuesday. "It's monumental. This is one of the biggest emergencies we've dealt with in some time."
The WHO, in a press statement Tuesday, said field hospitals, medical personnel, medicines and other medical supplies are arriving in the Philippines as countries and nongovernmental organizations around the world respond to the disaster.
"In support of the Government of the Philippines, WHO is coordinating all health-related aspects of the emergency response to ensure the supplies are moved quickly to where health facilities and supplies are most damaged, such as Tacloban, Cebu and the west coast of Leyte," the organization said.
The WHO said field hospitals with medical teams from Belgium, Israel, Norway and Japan are currently in the Visayas, and more teams from Australia and Germany are coming.
"In addition to responding to injuries and trauma, health needs will also need to be met in very challenging circumstances," the WHO said.
It added that an estimated 12,000 babies will be born this month in typhoon-affected areas.
"People with noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes or heart disease will need to continue receiving their regular medication," it said.
The official death toll rose to 1,798 Tuesday night, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
At least 2,582 were injured while 82 others are missing, the agency said.