Typhoon Haiyan: 'Every single building. Every single house. Destroyed' - Governments pledge millions, but the ruined city of Tacloban still waits

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Displaced and destitute survivors scatter the  streets of the ruined city of Tacloban – but the  aid they crave remains critically slow in coming

Asia-Pacific Correspondent

“It has been four days [since Typhoon Haiyan struck],” said Joan Lumbre-Wilson, a resident of the ruined city of Tacloban. “We want water and food … We are emotionally drained and physically exhausted. There are many babies and children who need attention.”

US military planes began flying supplies into Tacloban, on the island of Leyte, on Monday – the first sign of an escalation in the painfully slow relief effort. The massive storm surges whipped up by Haiyan destroyed roads, bridges and airports, hampering aid operations. Some of the worst hit towns and cities remain cut off from the outside world.

The typhoon, which was downgraded to a tropical storm on Monday as it entered China after crossing Vietnam, is believed to have killed at least 10,000 people on Leyte alone.

Threatening to further hamper relief efforts is a new storm approaching the southern and central Philippines. Government weather forecasters said the tropical depression could bring fresh floods to typhoon-affected areas.

“We continue to help around the world – as we are today in the Philippines where Typhoon Haiyan has wrought such appalling devastation,” Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday. “Britain is contributing £10 million and HMS Daring, currently deployed near Singapore, will shortly be heading at full speed towards the disaster zone with further support from an RAF C17 which will be a powerful help to the relief operation.”

Displaced and destitute survivors have been scavenging for food, and in some cases resorting to looting – although supermarkets are said to have already been stripped bare.

Exacerbating their distress are the bodies lying by the roadside, shrouded with scraps of material and decomposing in the fierce heat. While mass graves have been dug, many of the dead still await burial.

Eyewitnesses reported eight bloated corpses, including that of a baby, submerged in seawater near a naval base. Officers said they had no body bags or electricity to preserve the corpses.

Stories of survival and loss continued to emerge from the disaster zone. Mirasol Saoyi and her husband were “flushed” out on to the street by huge waves which washed away their home as the typhoon powered across the central Philippines last Friday.

“My husband tied us together, but still we got separated among the debris,” she said. “I saw many people drowning, screaming and going under … I haven’t found my husband.”

Marvin Daga and his ailing father, Mario, clung to each other inside their home as it was swept away. They floated for a while, then the house crumbled and they were propelled into the 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. “But I’m not expecting to find him any more.”

A city of 220,000, Tacloban was almost flattened by Haiyan, with only a few concrete buildings still standing. After flying over the city in a helicopter, US Marine Brigadier-General Paul Kennedy said yesterday: “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.”

Among the towns yet to be reached by rescue teams is Basey, on the island of Samar, across the bay from Tacloban. The provincial governor said 2,000 people were missing there. Baco, a city of 35,000 people, is 80 per cent under water, according to UN workers, while an aid team from Oxfam has reported “utter destruction” in the north of Cebu island.

Although the Philippines had plenty of warning about the approaching storm, its scale – possibly the most powerful ever to make landfall – was not foreseen. Nearly a million people moved out of homes in high-risk areas, but many evacuation centres – schools, churches and government buildings – were unable to withstand the high winds and monstrous waves.

Among the islands to be hit was Bohol, which was recovering from a 7.2 magnitude earthquake last month. Aid agencies were already focused on Bohol, providing another reason  for the slow pace of relief operations in the typhoon aftermath.

Many of Tacloban’s survivors converged on the city’s shattered airport, waiting for aid flights to land. The airport was also turned into a makeshift hospital, where Emily Ortega, 21, gave birth to a baby girl on Monday. She survived the storm and flood by clinging to a post.

 

Video: Graham Mackay of Oxfam says the development charity has to stick to what they are good at and a support operation is currently underway

By default player size is set to 460 x 412px. But you can resize player width and height once you get the player code using player params.
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea