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Philippine storm death toll jumps, President Aquino under pressure
The United Nations, citing government figures, put the latest death toll at 4,460 - almost double the last official number given. President Benigno Aquino has faced mounting pressure to speed up the distribution of supplies and stoked debate over the extent of casualties from Typhoon Haiyan.
Earlier this week, he said estimates of 10,000 dead by local officials were overstated and caused by "emotional trauma". He had said the toll was closer to 2,000 or 2,500, adding it could rise. His comments have drawn skepticism from some aid workers.
"As of 13 November, the government reported that 4,460 people have died," the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in its daily situation report, issued out of Manila and dated Thursday.
Official confirmed deaths stood at 2,357 on Thursday. It was unclear on Friday, where it was still very early in Manila, if the government publicly updated that number overnight.
Survivors have grown increasingly desperate and angry over the pace of aid distribution, which has been hindered by paralyzed local governments, widespread looting, a lack of fuel and debris-choked roads.
The dead are still being buried one week after the storm and a tsunami-like wall of seawater slammed into coastal areas. Many corpses remain uncovered on roadsides or under splintered homes in the worst-hit city of Tacloban.
Foreign aid officials have called the disaster unprecedented for the Philippines.
"There is utter devastation. People are desperate for food, water, shelter, supplies and information about their loved ones," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters on Thursday during a visit to Latvia.
"We are doing everything possible to rush assistance to those who need it. Now is the time for the international community to stand with the people of the Philippines."
President Aquino has been on the defensive over his handling of the storm, given warnings of its projected strength and the risk of a storm surge, and now the pace of relief efforts.
Two days before one of the world's most powerful typhoons rammed into the Philippines, President Benigno Aquino had a simple but ambitious target for all government agencies: zero casualties.
Now with thousands dead, anger is growing over the slow relief effort and Aquino's once-unassailable popularity is under threat - along with the reforms that have helped transform the Philippines into one of Asia's fastest-growing and hottest emerging economies.
Aquino faces a challenge that could define and undermine his presidency in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, whose 313 km per hour (195 mph) winds and tsunami-like wall of water turned coastal regions into corpse-strewn wastelands.
The 53-year-old heir to a political dynasty appears to have been caught off guard by the magnitude of the devastation and has struggled to quell the growing frustration among survivors.
He's appeared only briefly on TV, including once from the city of Tacloban huddling with local officials and again at the Malacanang presidential palace to announce a national calamity. Other media appearances, from both Manila and the affected areas, have been rare
He has said the death toll might have been higher had it not been for the evacuation of people and the readying of relief supplies, but survivors say they had little warning of any seawater surge.
More than 920,000 people have been displaced, the United Nations said. But many areas still have not received aid.
"It's true, there are still areas that we have not been able to get to where people are in desperate need," U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told reporters in Manila. "I very much hope that in the next 48 hours, that will change significantly.
"Yes, I do feel that we have let people down because we have not been able to get in more quickly."
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