Tacloban, Philippines (CNN) – A day after Typhoon Haiyan roared into the Philippines, officials found more than 100 bodies scattered on the streets of one devastated coastal city.
Officials rushed body bags to Tacloban city following the first significant report of fatalities.
“There are numbers of undetermined casualties found along the roads. We have to send the requested 100 body bags in the area,” Lt. Jim Aris Alagao told the Philippines news agency.
Shell-shocked Filipinos waded through waist-high water. Overturned vehicles, fallen utility poles and tree trunks landed on roads, blocking transportation.
Buildings left standing, rooftops and windows were blown out. Gaping holes remained.
“Tacloban has been the worst hit and we expect the greatest number of casualties from there,” Alagao said. “We have not been able to determine a specific death toll as communications are still down -other government agencies are reporting more than 100 casualties in Tacloban alone.”
Officials say the number is expected to go up once they get access to devastated areas.
In Tacloban, mobile services were down and officials were relying on intermittent communication using radios.
Rescue crews handed out ready-to-eat meals, clothing, blankets, medicine and water, Alagao said.
It’ll take days to get the full scope of the damage by a typhoon described as one of the strongest to make landfall in recorded history.
In addition to the fatalities, at least 100 people were injured in Tacloban, said Capt. John Andrews, deputy director of the national Civil Aviation Authority.
Tacloban has a population of about 220,000. Most of the other badly-hit cities and islands were cut off, making the number of casualties unclear.
Residents scoured through supermarkets, looking for water and food. They slowly emerged on streets littered with debris.
Several bodies were found at the Tacloban chapel. A woman wept over one.
The destruction is expected to be catastrophic. Storm clouds covered the entire Philippines, stretching 1,120 miles equal to a distance between Florida and Canada. The deadly wind field, or tropical storm force winds, covered an area the size of Montana or Germany.
The typhoon first barreled onto the country’s eastern island of Samar on Friday morning, flooding streets and knocking out power and communications in most of Eastern Visayas region.
It first landed near Dulag and Tacloban, flooding coastal communities with a surge of water and delivering 195 mph winds with gusts reaching as high as 235 mph.
“It is like a tsunami has hit here,” said Paula Hancocks, who was the first international journalist at Tacloban.
It continued its march, barreling into five other Philippine islands.
Haiyan weakened Saturday and was no longer a super typhoon, downgrading to a typhoon with sustained winds of 130 mph.
It could return to typhoon status Saturday. It’s headed toward Vietnam and could land Sunday morning near the cities of Da Nang and Hue.
Philippine military helicopters are taking aerial surveys and relief agencies in Manila are traveling as long as 18 hours to reach the worst-hit isles.
Tacloban is the largest city in the Eastern Visayas Islands. It was an important logistical base during World War II, and served as a temporary capital of the Philippines. But Saturday, it was among the most devastated and authorities and relief agencies had no immediate information about its condition.
Typhoon Haiyan packed a wallop on Philippine structures 3.5 times more forceful than the United States’ Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which directly or indirectly killed 1,833 people. At $108 billion, it was the costliest hurricane in U.S. history.
Most of Cebu province couldn’t be contacted by landlines, cell phones or radio Saturday, said Dennis Chiong, operations officer for the province’s disaster risk and emergency management.
One inaccessible town, Daanbantayan, has more than 3,000 residents who “badly need food, water and shelter because most of the houses there are damaged due to the storm,” Chiong said.
In the town of Santa Fe in Cebu province, officials could not determine the number of fatalities because roads were washed out and phone services down.
One major concern was the typhoon’s impact on the Bohol Island, where 350,000 people have been living in tents and temporary shelters since last month’s earthquake, said Joe Curry of Catholic Relief Services.
“This one was incredibly intense and big,” Curry said. “The strength of this typhoon is phenomenal and the way it moved across the Philippines is something of serious concern.”He feared that islands will experience the most fatalities.
“There are a lot of rural areas, a lot of small islands that are affected. We don’t know how they can protect themselves from a typhoon of this strength,” Curry said.
Clarson Fruelda, of Cebu City, said residents were cleaning up dirt, leaves, coconuts and tree branches from their homes.
“The winds were the strongest that I felt in more than 20 years,” Fruelda said. “These past few weeks were really tough for my wife and I and probably for Cebuanos as well since it was just a few weeks ago when we were hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake.”
Experts predicted the casualty toll would soar once aid workers get to the hardest-hit areas, many of which were totally isolated with no phone service and no electricity.
About 125,000 people took refuge in evacuation centers, and hundreds of flights were canceled.
With sustained winds of 195 mph (315 kph) and gusts as strong as 235 mph (380 kph), Haiyan may be the strongest tropical cyclone in recorded history. It will take further analysis after the storm passes to establish whether it is a record.
Haiyan was on a westward track when it raced into Samar traveling at 25 mph (41 kph), which meant the worst was over quickly.
‘The strongest I ever felt’ Maryann Zamora, a field communications specialist for the charity World Vision, said her organization “has been working through so many disasters, so many typhoons- but this is quite different.”