TACLOBAN, Philippines - Philippine President Benigno Aquino said local officials had overstated the death toll from Typhoon Haiyan, saying it was closer to 2,000 or 2,500 than the 10,000 previously estimated, comments that drew skepticism from some aid workers.
The government has been overwhelmed by the typhoon, which flattened Tacloban, coastal capital of Leyte province where several local officials have said they feared 10,000 people died, many drowning in a tsunami-like surge of seawater.
Rescue workers have yet to reach scores of other towns and villages in the path of one of the strongest storms on record, five days after it smashed into the central Philippines.
Aquino, who has been on the defensive over his handling of the disaster, said the government was still gathering information from various storm-struck areas and the death toll may rise. "Ten thousand, I think, is too much," Aquino told CNN in an interview. "There was emotional drama involved with that particular estimate."
"We're hoping to be able to contact something like 29 municipalities left wherein we still have to establish their numbers, especially for the missing, but so far 2,000, about 2,500, is the number we are working on as far as deaths are concerned," he said.
A presidential spokesman said Aquino referred to estimated deaths. Official confirmed deaths stood at 1,774 on Tuesday, with only 84 missing, a figure aid workers consider widely inaccurate.