MANILA (NBC NEWS) -- Early reports suggest 1,000 people have died in the coastal city of Tacloban and at least 200 more in the Samar province when one of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall slammed into the country, the Red Cross said Saturday.
Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross, said the numbers came from preliminary reports by Red Cross teams on the ground.
The typhoon generated nearly 200-mph winds as it rampaged through on Friday. By noon (11 p.m. ET Friday), its top winds had lessened to 110 mph - after having approached 195 mph at landfall Friday morning. Its center had cleared the country and was about 380 miles west of San Jose.
It was downgraded overnight from a "super typhoon," equivalent to a category 4 or 5 hurricane, to a typhoon.
Along the way, it cut off many of the country's lines of communication, making it hard to establish the extent of its damage.
Pang stressed that reports were being checked, and that a more exact number would emerge after more precise counting of bodies in each area.
The government confirmed seven deaths and said four other people were missing. Four people were killed Thursday and Friday as the storm lashed the islands, the national disaster agency said Friday, and early Saturday, the official Philippine News Agency confirmed that three others were killed in Coron in northern Palawan.
Hundreds of homes were flattened and almost 800,000 people were evacuated to emergency shelters as Haiyan triggered mudslides, flash flooding and a storm surge with waves of up to 30 feet Friday.
But forecasters and government officials said a much more devastating toll could emerge in the hours and days to come. Because the Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 islands - more than 2,000 of them inhabited, with their own local authorities and infrastructures - it typically takes two to three days for full reports to reach rescue agencies.
"It is the most powerful storm ever to make landfall," Michael Palmer, lead meteorologist forThe Weather Channel, told NBC News. "It is as strong a typhoon as you can get, basically," with winds able to "obliterate poorly constructed homes."