Typhoon-ravaged Philippine islands faced an unimaginably huge relief
effort that had barely begun Monday, as bloated bodies lay uncollected and
uncounted in the streets and survivors pleaded for food, water and
Police guarded stores to prevent people from hauling off food, water and
such non-essentials as TVs and treadmills, but there was often no one to carry
away the dead - not even those seen along the main road from the airport to
Tacloban, the worst-hit city along the country's remote eastern seaboard.
At a small naval base, eight bloated corpses - including that of a baby -
were submerged in sea water brought in by the storm. Officers there had yet to
move them, saying they had no body bags or electricity to preserve them.
Two officials said Sunday that Friday's typhoon may have killed 10,000 or
more people, but with the slow pace of recovery, the official death toll
remained well below that. The Philippine military confirmed 942 dead, but
shattered communications, transportation links and local governments suggest the
final toll is days away. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said "we pray"
that the death toll is less than 10,000.
Tacloban resembled a garbage dump from the air, punctuated only by a few
concrete buildings that remained standing.
"I don't believe there is a single structure that is not destroyed or
severely damaged in some way - every single building, every single house," U.S.
Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy said after taking a helicopter flight over the
city. He spoke on the tarmac at the airport, where two Marine C-130 cargo planes
were parked, engines running, unloading supplies.
Authorities said at least 2 million people in 41 provinces were affected by
the typhoon, which is called Yolanda in the Philippines but is known as Haiyan
elsewhere in Asia. It's one of the most powerful recorded typhoons to ever hit
land and likely the deadliest natural disaster to beset this poor Southeast
Philippine soldiers were distributing food and water in Tacloban, and
assessment teams from the United Nations and other international agencies were
seen for the first time. The U.S. military dispatched food, water, generators
and a contingent of Marines to the city, the first outside help in what will
swell into a major international relief mission.
"Please tell my family I'm alive," said Erika Mae Karakot, a survivor on
Tacloban's Leyte island, as she lined up for aid. "We need water and medicine
because a lot of the people we are with are wounded. Some are suffering from
diarrhea and dehydration due to shortage of food and water."
Authorities said they had evacuated some 800,000 people ahead of the
typhoon, but some of the evacuation centers proved to be no protection against
the wind and rising water. The Philippine National Red Cross, responsible for
warning the region and giving advice, said people were not prepared for a storm
"Imagine America, which was prepared and very rich, still had a lot of
challenges at the time of Hurricane Katrina, but what we had was three times
more than what they received," said Gwendolyn Pang, the group's executive
Emily Ortega, 21 and about to give birth, was among those who had thought
she was safe. But the evacuation center she had fled to was devastated by the
6-meter (20-foot) storm surge, and she had to swim and cling to a post to
survive. She reached safety at the airport, where she gave birth to a baby girl.
Bea Joy Sagales appeared in good health. Her arrival drew applause from others
in the airport and military medics who assisted in the delivery.
The winds, rains and coastal storm surges transformed neighborhoods into
twisted piles of debris, blocking roads and trapping decomposing bodies
underneath. Ships were tossed inland, cars and trucks swept out to sea and
bridges and ports washed away.
"In some cases the devastation has been total," said Secretary to the
Cabinet Rene Almendras.
Residents have stripped malls, shops and homes of food, water and consumer
goods. Officials said some of the looting smacked of desperation but in other
cases items taken included TVs, refrigerators, Christmas trees and a treadmill.
An Associated Press reporter in the town said he saw around 400 special forces
and soldiers patrolling downtown to guard against further chaos.
Brig. Gen. Kennedy said Philippine forces were handling security well, and
that his forces were "looking at how to open up roads and land planes and
helicopters. We got shelter coming in. (The U.S. Agency for International
Development) is bringing in water and supplies."
Those caught in the storm were worried that aid would not arrive soon
"We're afraid that it's going to get dangerous in town because relief goods
are trickling in very slow," said Bobbie Womack, an American missionary and
longtime Tacloban resident from Athens, Tennessee. "I know it's a massive,
massive undertaking to try to feed a town of over 150,000 people. They need to
bring in shiploads of food."
Womack's husband, Larry, said he chose to stay at their beachside home, only
to find the storm surge engulfing it. He survived by climbing onto a beam in the
roof that stayed attached to a wall.
"The roof was lifting up and the wind was coming through and there were
actual waves going over my head," he said. "The sound was loud. It was just
Marvin Daga, a 19-year-old student in Tacloban tried to ride out the storm
in his home with his ailing father, Mario, but the storm surge carried the
They clung to each other while the house floated for a while, but it
eventually crumbled and they fell into churning waters. Marvin grabbed a coconut
tree with one hand and his father with the other, but Mario slipped out of his
grasp and sank.
"I hope that he survived," Marvin said in an army medic room as tears filled
his eyes. "But I'm not expecting to find him anymore."
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said in a statement he had a
declared a "state of national calamity," allowing the central government to
release emergency funds quicker and impose price controls on staple goods. He
said the two worst-hit provinces, Leyte and Samar, had witnessed "massive
destruction and loss of life" but that elsewhere casualties were low.
Haiyan hit the eastern seaboard of the Philippines on Friday and quickly
barreled across its central islands, packing winds of 235 kph (147 mph) that
gusted to 275 kph (170 mph). It inflicted serious damage to at least six islands
in the middle of the eastern seaboard.
The storm's sustained winds weakened to 120 kph (74 mph) as the typhoon made
landfall in northern Vietnam early Monday after crossing the South China Sea,
according to the Hong Kong meteorological observatory. Authorities there
evacuated hundreds of thousands of people, but there were no reports of
significant damage or injuries.
It was downgraded to a tropical storm as it entered southern China later
Monday, and weather officials forecast torrential rain in the area until
Tuesday. No major damage was reported in China, though Xinhua News Agency said
heavy winds tore a cargo ship from its moorings in southern China and drove it
out to sea, killing at least two crew members.
The Philippines, an archipelago nation of more than 7,000 islands, is
annually buffeted by tropical storms and typhoons, which are called hurricanes
and cyclones elsewhere. The impoverished and densely populated nation of 96
million people is in the northwestern Pacific, right in the path of the world's
No. 1 typhoon generator, according to meteorologists. The archipelago's exposed
eastern seaboard often bears the brunt.
Even by the standards of the Philippines, however, Haiyan was an especially
large catastrophe. Its winds were among the strongest ever recorded, and it
appears to have killed more people than the previous deadliest Philippine storm,
Thelma, in which about 5,100 people died in the central Philippines in 1991.
The country's deadliest disaster on record was the 1976 magnitude-7.9
earthquake that triggered a tsunami in the Moro Gulf in the southern
Philippines, killing 5,791 people.