NEW: Official death toll climbs to 3,633 dead, disaster officials say
Women flee with children while some men remain to rebuild
"My children are decomposing," one woman says
Children wander the streets of Tacloban unattended
More than a week after Typhoon Haiyan laid waste to much of the central Philippines, the toll is overwhelming: entire communities flattened, thousands dead and nearly 2 million people displaced.
The arrival in recent days of hundreds of aid workers and military troops has seen a flood gate of humanitarian aid – food, water and medical supplies – open, albeit sporadically, in the hard hit provinces.
Crews continued Saturday to collect bodies from streets, with the death toll raised to 3,633, according to the national disaster agency’s official death count.
The number of injured stood at 12,487, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported. At least 1,179 were missing.
For some who survived the monster storm, the aid came too late.
Richard Pulga, 27, died Friday, seven days after surviving the massive storm surge and fierce winds that flattened large portions of Tacloban City, a city of more than 200,000 people.
Pulga initially suffered an “open fracture of his shin bones,” according to doctors working at a damaged clinic. He then contracted a “terrible infection” that left him in need of a blood transfusion.
But with the clinic out of blood and antibiotics, he eventually died, the doctors said.
The death toll could still climb higher, with an additional 1,000 cadaver bags sent to provinces, the disaster council announced as search-and-rescue operations continued in Tacloban City.
The national disaster council’s executive director, Eduardo Del Rosario, said the bags would be placed on stand-by, given that most of the bodies had already been buried in mass graves or claimed by relatives.
Used cadaver bags are cleaned before being reused, he said.
The nation’s disaster agency said more than 9 million people were affected in 44 provinces, 536 municipalities and 55 cities. Nearly 2 million were displaced, with about 400,000 of them finding shelter inside evacuation centers.
In Tacloban City, sickness, hunger and thirst have settled in with the sticky, humid heat and the stench of rancid flesh hanging over the apocalyptic scene.
Survivors in improvised shelters have kept watch over the bodies of their dead relatives.
Cadaver collectors in debris-removal crews uncover some of the dead, while heaving away wreckage from the roads.
But the bodies that initially seemed ubiquitous are becoming a rarer sight, as collections continue.
PNA reported Friday that five-person teams that include a forensic expert and photographer would begin Saturday using a “quick system” for the bodies.
“Under the system, the public will not be allowed to view the identification process but relatives will be asked to participate in the final identification of corpses at an appointed time,” it reported, citing the Department of Health.
Each team will be required to handle 40 corpses per day, it said.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that photos will be taken, identifying marks will be documented, and belongings and tissue samples for possible use in DNA testing will be collected, when practical.
Officially, 801 bodies were counted in Tacloban City by Friday, but thousands are feared dead in the capital city of Leyte province where entire neighborhoods were swept out to sea.
Turning a corner?
By Friday, crews had cleared the major streets of Tacloban
Many survivors have converged on the city’s airport, where they were waiting in line for seats on flights out.
Others took to the sea. As naval ships pushed up on beaches like gray whales and dropped their loading bay gates, people laden with possessions entered the bellies of the arks en route to new lives elsewhere.
At the convention center, many stood for hours in long lines under the sun awaiting the next load of food and bottled water to arrive in bulk pallets from donors around the world.
Some were there because they had nowhere else to go.
“We really don’t know what we’re going to do next,” said 30-year-old May May Gula, who was among nine families sharing a room on the convention center’s ground floor.
Reaching and helping the survivors – more than 2 million of whom need food, according to the government – are priorities.
Recovery efforts were helped on Thursday, when the USS George Washington, an aircraft carrier with 5,500 crew, sailed into Philippine waters.
It was accompanied by eight more ships that, together, carry 80 aircraft, including 21 helicopters that can deliver supplies to villages, where many roads have been obliterated, and identify people still cut off from help.
By Saturday, the U.S. miltiary had delivered 623,000 pounded of relief supplies, the Department of Defense said.
Irony – those who help survivors struggled to survive
Some who would typically have provided aid found themselves needing help.
Ryan Cardenas, with the Philippine Navy, had helped with recovery efforts in each of the past two years after cyclones that left hundreds dead.
But when Haiyan slammed into the Tacloban naval station where he’s based, he and other sailors were in no position to help others immediately – they stayed alive by clinging to rafters in their barracks.
Their commanding officer, who was in a building badly damaged by the storm, clutched a palm tree’s trunk for survival.
Afterward, the sailors helped retrieve bodies, according to Cardenas. One found his mother sitting dead against a wall.
Later, they sorted through the wreckage of the naval station and awaited orders.
“This is the worst,” Cardenas said, taking a break from fixing a piece of damaged furniture. “We’re both victims and rescuers.”
CNN’s Jethro Mullen reported from Tacloban; Ben Brumfield and Chelsea J. Carter wrote and reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Anna Coren contributed from Cebu; Karen Smith and Tom Watkins contributed from Atlanta.