By Stuart Grudgings and Aubrey Belford

TACLOBAN, Philippines, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The death toll from one of the world's most powerful typhoons surged on Friday, but the aid effort was still so patchy bodies lay uncollected and thousands tried desperately to evacuate stricken communities across the central Philippines.

After long delays, hundreds of international aid workers set up makeshift hospitals and trucked in supplies, while helicopters from a U.S. aircraft carrier ferried medicine and water to remote areas levelled by Typhoon Haiyan a week ago.

"There's a change in the pace of the response. I can see the international support coming here," said Captain Victoriano Sambale, a Philippine military doctor who since Saturday has treated patients in a room strewn with dirt and debris.

"Day one we treated 600-plus patients. Day two we had 700-plus patients. Day three we lost our count," he said.

President Benigno Aquino, caught off guard by the scale of the disaster, has been criticised for the slow pace of aid distribution and unclear estimates of casualties, especially in Tacloban, capital of hardest-hit Leyte province.

A notice board in Tacloban City Hall estimated the deaths at 4,000 on Friday, up from 2,000 a day before, in that town alone. Hours later, Tacloban mayor Alfred Romualdez apologised and said the toll was for the whole central Philippines.

The toll, marked up on a whiteboard, is compiled by officials who started burying bodies in a mass grave on Thursday.

Romualdez said some people may have been swept out to sea and their bodies lost after a tsunami-like wall of seawater slammed into coastal areas. One neighbourhood with a population of between 10,000 and 12,000 was now deserted, he said.

The City Hall toll was the first public acknowledgement that the number of fatalities would likely far exceed an estimate given this week by Aquino, who said lives lost would be closer to 2,000 or 2,500.

Official confirmed deaths nationwide rose by more than 1,200 overnight to 3,621 on Friday. Adding to the confusion, the United Nations, citing government figures, put the latest overall death toll at 4,460, but a spokeswoman said it was now reviewing the figure.

"I hope it will not rise anymore. I hope that is the final number," Eduardo del Rosario, director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said of the latest official toll. "If it rises, it will probably be very slight."

On Tuesday, Aquino said estimates of 10,000 dead by local officials were overstated and caused by "emotional trauma". Elmer Soria, a regional police chief who gave that estimate to media, was removed from his post on Thursday.

National police spokesman Reuben Sindac said Soria had experienced an "acute stress reaction" and had been transferred to headquarters in Manila. But a senior police official told Reuters he believed Soria was re-assigned because of his unauthorised casualty estimate.


U.S. HELICOPTERS AID RELIEF EFFORT

But massive logistical problems remain. Injured survivors waited in long lines under searing sun for treatment. Local authorities reported shortages of body bags, gasoline and staff to collect the dead.

"Bodies are still lying on the roads. But now at least they're in sections with department of health body bags," Ian Norton, chief of a team of Australian aid workers, told Reuters.

Stunned survivors in Tacloban said the toll could be many thousands. "There are a lot of dead people on the street in our neighbourhood, by the trash," said Aiza Umpacan, a 27-year-old resident of San Jose, one of the worst-hit neighbourhoods.

"There are still a lot of streets that were not visited by the disaster relief operations. They are just going through the highways, not the inner streets," he said. "The smell is getting worse and we actually have neighbours who have been brought to hospital because they are getting sick."

The preliminary number of missing as of Friday, according to the Red Cross, rose to 25,000 from 22,000 a day earlier. That could include people who have since been located, it said.

The nuclear-powered USS George Washington aircraft carrier and accompanying ships arrived off eastern Samar province on Thursday evening, carrying 5,000 crew and more than 80 aircraft.

U.S. sailors have brought food and water ashore in Tacloban and the eastern Samar province town of Guiuan whose airport was a U.S. naval air base in World War Two. The carrier is moored near where U.S. General Douglas MacArthur's force landed on Oct. 20, 1944, in one of the biggest Allied victories.

Acting U.S. Ambassador Brian Goldbeck, the chargé d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, said the United States had moved 174,000 kg (383,000 lb) of emergency supplies into affected areas and evacuated nearly 3,000 people.

A Norwegian merchant navy training vessel arrived at Tacloban on Friday with goods from the U.N. World Food Programme, including 40 tonnes of rice, medical equipment and 6,200 body bags.


THOUSANDS TRY TO EVACUATE

Boxes of aid were being unloaded at Tacloban's badly damaged airport, where more than a thousand people queued for hours hoping to evacuate.

Hundreds of people, part of nearly a million who have been displaced by the storm, lined up for food and drink at an evacuee processing centre at Mactan Air Base in Cebu, the country's second-biggest city.

Some 522 evacuees passed through the centre on Thursday, with hundreds more arriving on Friday, a government coordinator, Erlinda Parame, said.

In one room, children huddled on a mud-streaked floor watching cartoons on a small television.

Nearby, Gerardo Alvarez, 53, sat strapped to a metal wheelchair, straining against the bandages that restrained him.

"The water is coming! I'm going to die!" he shouted.

The traumatised man had escaped the storm surge from a second-storey window of his Tacloban home while his sister and mother, who were praying downstairs, drowned.

(Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco and Eric dela Cruz and Manuel Mogato in Manila, and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations. Writing by Jason Szep. Editing by Dean Yates and Nick Macfie)

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Stuffed toys are placed on a clothes line for drying along a road in Quinapundan town, Eastern Samar province, central Philippines on November 19, 2013. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A boy plays amongst the rubble in Tolosa District on November 19, 2013 in Leyte, Philippines. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

  • A man throws debris onto a fire as he cleans up his home in Tanauan on November 19, 2013 in Leyte, Philippines. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

  • Market stall holders trade goods in Tacloban on November 19, 2013 in Leyte, Philippines. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • Two broken palm trees stand snapped in half on the beach near Tananau on November 19, 2013 in Leyte, Philippines. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • PHILIPPINES--TYPHOON

    A man sits among uprooted oconut trees and houses destroyed during the typhoon in a small settlement on the outskirts of Tacloban on November 19, 2013. (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A crewman watches out the back hatch of a US Marines Osprey aircraft as it returns to Tacloban Airport on November 19, 2013. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Mary Joy Ducusin holds his picture after finding her missing six year old son, British citizen Jairo Ben among the bodies brought to one of three mass burial sites where they so far have received more than one thousand typhoon victims in Tacloban on November 19, 2013. (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Two boys on a bicycle covers their nose and mouths as they pass body bags with 170 dead collected from the rubble at the 'Cemetery of the hills', one of three mass burial sites where they so far have received one thousand typhoon victims in Tacloban on November 19, 2013. (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Children walk at the site of a bunker fuel spill in an area devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan on the coast of Estancia in the province of Iloilo on November 18, 2013. (JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An aerial view of the devastated district of Palo in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan on November 18, 2013 in Tacloban, Philippines. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

  • An elderly man stands near fires used for light and to burn refuse in an area destroyed in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan on November 18, 2013 in Tacloban, Philippines. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

  • Residents grab for aid dropped by helicopter in an area destroyed in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan on November 18, 2013 in Tacloban, Philippines. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

  • Residents play basketball with a makeshift net in an area destroyed in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan on November 18, 2013 in Tacloban, Philippines. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

  • The ECHO team first on the ground in rural Leyte province.

  • Devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

  • A house destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan, which ripped through the Philippines Nov 8, 2013.

  • Aftermath of the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan.

  • Debris washed up clogs the coastline near the pier in the town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar province, central Philippines on November 11, 2013, four days after Typhoon Haiyan hit the country. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Residents take a bath and wash their belongings next to debris along a road in Tacloban, on the eastern island of Leyte on November 10, 2013 after Super Typhoon Haiyan swept over the Philippines. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A resident covering his face with a mask rides past dead bodies littered along a road in Tacloban, on the eastern island of Leyte on November 10, 2013 after Super Typhoon Haiyan swept over the Philippines. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A resident cries as she related her ordeal at the height of Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban City, Leyte province, central Philippines on November 10, 2013, three days after devastating Typhoon Haiyan hit the city on November 8. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Residents walk through debris and victim's bodies in Tacloban City, Leyte province, central Philippines on November 10, 2013, three days after devastating Typhoon Haiyan hit the city on November 8.(TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Children cycles past a dead body on a street at Tacloban, eastern island of Leyte on November 10, 2013. (NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Bodies wrapped in blankets are placed inside a damaged chapel Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, a day after powerful Typhoon Haiyan slammed Tacloban city, in Leyte province, central Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

  • Residents walk by debris after powerful Typhoon Haiyan slammed into Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

  • aerial

    Tacloban Airport is covered by debris after powerful Typhoon Haiyan hit Tacloban city, in Leyte province in central Philippines, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

  • Residents look at bodies brought inside a damaged chapel Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, a day after powerful Typhoon Haiyan slammed Tacloban city, in Leyte province in central Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

  • A house is engulfed by the storm surge brought about by powerful typhoon Haiyan that hit Legazpi city, Albay province Friday Nov.8, 2013 about 520 kilometers ( 325 miles) south of Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Nelson Salting)

  • Residents watch as others throw looted goods from a warehouse in the town of Guiuan, Eastern Samar province in the central Philippines on November 11, 2013, only days after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the town on November 8. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Residents watch as others throw looted goods from a warehouse in the town of Guiuan, Eastern Samar province in the central Philippines on November 11, 2013, only days after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the town on November 8. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Residents carry water-damaged sacks of rice from a rice warehouse in Tacloban in the eastern Philippine island of Leyte on November 11, 2013. (NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A military helicopter delivering relief food prepares to land at the airport next to broken coconut trees in the town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar province in the central Philippines on November 11, 2013 only days after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the town on November 8. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A young survivor rests on a pedicab surrounded by debris caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban in the eastern Philippine island of Leyte on November 11, 2013. (NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • People walk amongst debris next to a ship washed ashore in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan at Anibong in Tacloban, eastern island of Leyte on November 11, 2013. (NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A resident who survived Typhoon Haiyan cries inside a stadium used as an evacuation centre in Tacloban, Leyte province, central Philippines on November 10, 2013, three days after devastating Typhoon Haiyan hit the city on November 8. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Residents push an improvised trolley loaded with an injured relative as they head for a medical station in Tacloban City, Leyte province,central Philippines on November 10, 2013, three days after devastating Typhoon Haiyan hit the city on November 8. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Residents carry a mattres taken from a hotel in Palo, eastern island of Leyte on November 10, 2013, three days after devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the area on November 8. (NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Children peek out from their makeshift shelter in Tacloban, on the eastern island of Leyte on November 10, 2013. (NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Typhoon Haiyan survivor burns debris in front of the ruins of his home in the village of Marabut, Samar Island, Philippines, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

  • A Typhoon Haiyan survivor carries a child wrapped in a towel as he watches a helicopter landing to bring aid to the destroyed town of Guiuan, Samar Island, Philippines, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

  • A Filipino woman embraces her good luck dwarf statue salvaged from her destroyed home in an area devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

  • As the sun sets, it lights the sky over the area devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, in Tacloban, central Philippines, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

  • U.S. military personnel carry relief supplies to a waiting U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopter from the USS George Washington at the airport landing zone in Tacloban, central Philippines, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

  • Despite living in the massive typhoon aftermath, young girls get to play in a dog house in Tacloban, central Philippines, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

  • A Filipino pedicab driver pedals past damaged homes at typhoon hit Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

  • American military personnel load relief aid on to a US Navy Seahawk helicopter from the USS George Washington carrier at a landing zone a the airport in Tacloban, central Philippines, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

  • A box of noodles donated by Filipino workers is packed to ship to the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines at an express company in a Hong Kong shopping mall Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

  • Typhoon survivors charge their mobile phones, flash lights at a street in Tacloban, central Philippines, Friday Nov. 15. 2013. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

  • Typhoon survivors who have been waiting to be evacuated for days at the airport in Tacloban, reach out for biscuits distributed by Philippines soldiers, in Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

  • A Filipino trooper distributes water to survivors waiting for a military flight to Manila as they flee typhoon hit Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)