TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines — Hundreds of bodies were buried Thursday in the typhoon-devastated eastern Philippines, as aid began to reach victims in the worst-hit regions.
Workers quietly shoveled soil over 300 bodies lined up in a mass grave in a cemetery at the foot of a hill outside Tacloban City, the capital of Leyte province.
“I hope this is the last time I see something like this,” said Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, who briefly inspected the burials, which were conducted without a ceremony.
The United Nations, quoting government officials, reported that the death toll has jumped to 4,460 from the earlier estimate of 2,357.
Farhan Haq, a spokesman for the U.N., said the total number of people affected by the typhoon, which ripped through the Philippines on Nov. 8, is now at 12 million, with 920,000 people displaced.
“There is utter devastation and people are desperate for food, water, shelter, supplies and information about their beloved ones,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Nearly 4,000 people were injured in Haiyan’s onslaught, while at least 77 were reported missing, the national disaster relief agency said. Damage to infrastructure and agriculture was estimated at over $94 million.
Haq said most airports are reopened, but debris-covered roads make it hard to deliver aid.
“We want to leave, because we are afraid that people will start getting sick,” said Omar Fumar, a 39-year-old security guard who was camped out at Tacloban’s airport with 10 other relatives. “It is so dirty here now, and so many dead bodies have not been cleared.”
Soldiers were distributing water and rice from trucks in Tacloban City, where hungry survivors had looted supermarkets, shopping malls and drugstores.
Eduardo Del Rosario, head of the national disaster relief agency, said more relief workers and supplies were en route to the affected areas, not just Tacloban City, amid complaints from other areas that they have been ignored.
“We have a concrete system for relief operations, but we weren’t prepared for this magnitude,” he told reporters in Manila. “This is very big.”
Del Rosario said the air force had started airdropping relief goods to remote areas.
The arrival of the USS George Washington in Leyte Gulf was expected to provide a boost to rescue operations.
“One of the best capabilities the Strike Group brings is our 21 helicopters,” said Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, commander of the George Washington Strike Group.
Montgomery said the cargo ship USNS Charles Drew also transported water and food to Tacloban City in Leyte province and nearby Samar province.
President Obama promised to send more assistance, urging Americans to donate to the victims of the typhoon. “More help is on the way,” he said.
Britain is sending its only aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious, which has seven helicopters and can process fresh water, Prime Minister David Cameron said. It is due to arrive on Nov. 24 or 25.
A second British ship, the Daring, which has fewer capabilities, is to arrive on Saturday. Britain has also donated $32 million to relief efforts.