Police official sacked over 10,000 fatality estimate
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - November 15, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The police general who said Super Typhoon Yolanda could have left 10,000 people dead was ordered relieved from his post yesterday.

Eastern Visayas police (PRO8) regional director Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria was quoted as saying that 10,000 people could have perished in Tacloban City alone, citing the extent of the damage brought by the monster storm in the city.

“He was relieved of his command as PRO8 director,” an official revealed, adding that Soria would be replaced by his military academy classmate, Chief Superintendent Henry Losañes, currently head of the PNP Maritime Group.

The PNP leadership has yet to announce Soria’s relief, but sources said Losañes will take over in the next few days, as soon as he could get a flight to the region.

A police official said the relief had nothing to do with Soria’s statements, but was done to allow him to take a break after the tragedy.

Soria incurred the ire of government officials for expressing his view on Yolanda’s rampage in Eastern Visayas.

Soria’s belief that 10,000 people could have died in the super storm made headlines in international and local news, quoting him as the source of the information.

Malacañang and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) immediately belied the fatality reports, describing these as without basis.

President Aquino himself downplayed the death toll, saying it could not exceed 10,000 and that the government is looking at 2,000 to 2,500 deaths, which he said is more realistic.

PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima clarified that the reported 10,000 deaths remain unconfirmed.

Purisima said he would call the attention of Soria to verify the basis for his statement.

Purisima said police officers should remember that any pronouncement should be supported by hard evidence.

“We rely on the actual body count, we do not rely on perception reports or anecdotal reports,” he said.

He said policemen should only state the number of deaths if they saw the bodies, buried them and after making the report to the NDRRMC.

“We are not trying to hide anything here, but what we want is the factual report and not speculation,” Purisima said.

However, Soria’s assessment had a semblance of truth as many devastated areas had yet to be reached. Being the police commander of Eastern Visayas, he knew the region well.

“He could be correct in his assessment but he expressed his views too soon without any documents to back this claim,” the official said.

Of 983 policemen of the regional headquarters in Palo, Leyte, only 34 have so far been accounted for, with the remaining 949 officially declared as missing.

A disaster official admitted the official NDRRMC list of 2,357 fatalities only represented the bodies recovered by the local government units.

As of yesterday, there are still many corpses to be retrieved in Tacloban and nearby Samar, posing health hazards to hundreds of hungry storm survivors.

The official said the number of fatalities could even double or even surpass the 10,000 estimate by Soria if all the bodies strewn across Tacloban are accounted for by the NDRRMC. – Jaime Laude, Non Alquitran, Cecille Suerte Felipe


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