Philippines Police Chief Fired for Exaggerating Haiyan’s Death Toll

The police chief who initially reported that Super Typhoon Haiyan had killed 10,000 people has been fired, according to the Philippines News Agency. Soon after Chief Supt. Elmer Soria told reporters on Saturday that "initially there are 10,000 casualties," the figure took on a life of its own. Countless media reports repeated the errant estimate, ...

Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images
Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images
Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images

The police chief who initially reported that Super Typhoon Haiyan had killed 10,000 people has been fired, according to the Philippines News Agency. Soon after Chief Supt. Elmer Soria told reporters on Saturday that "initially there are 10,000 casualties," the figure took on a life of its own. Countless media reports repeated the errant estimate, often attributing it to unnamed Philippine officials, in spite of the fact that the the country's National Disaster Risk and Management Council was reporting substantially lower numbers.

Philippine President Aquino managed to quell the rumors in an interview with Christiane Amanpour Tuesday, saying, "Ten thousand I think is too much and perhaps that was brought about by, how should I put it, being in the center of the destruction. There was emotional trauma involved in that particular estimate."

 

The police chief who initially reported that Super Typhoon Haiyan had killed 10,000 people has been fired, according to the Philippines News Agency. Soon after Chief Supt. Elmer Soria told reporters on Saturday that "initially there are 10,000 casualties," the figure took on a life of its own. Countless media reports repeated the errant estimate, often attributing it to unnamed Philippine officials, in spite of the fact that the the country’s National Disaster Risk and Management Council was reporting substantially lower numbers.

Philippine President Aquino managed to quell the rumors in an interview with Christiane Amanpour Tuesday, saying, "Ten thousand I think is too much and perhaps that was brought about by, how should I put it, being in the center of the destruction. There was emotional trauma involved in that particular estimate."

 

Since then, Soria has been removed from his post. Another official, Tacloban city administrator Tecson Lim, propagated the false estimate, as well.

Perhaps following Aquino’s example, the Philippine National Police spokesperson was quick to blame the mistake on Soria’s proximity to the devastation. He told the Wall Street Journal: "We all know for one thing, Police Chief Supt. Elmer Soria has been through a lot for the past days and may be experiencing what you call ‘acute stress reaction.’"

The New York Times, the Associated Press, the Guardian, Reuters and even Foreign Policy were among those who used the false estimate.

The latest figures released by the government put the number of casualties at 2,537.

Catherine A. Traywick is a fellow at Foreign Policy.

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