Category: Calamity

Haiyan: Desperate Survivors In Flattened City

The coastal city of 222,000 inhabitants bore the brunt of the 195mph winds of the strongest storm ever recorded, tearing off roofs and destroying evacuation centers. The storm that surged six meters (20ft) in height turned roads into rivers of sewage and seawater, landing whole ships on top of houses, and obliterating bridges and roads. At least 10,000 people are thought to have died so far in Leyte province alone, with the toll expected to rise.  Without clean water, food or medicine, Tacloban survivors have begun raiding houses, shops and malls to find supplies. One shop owner was photographed defending his premises with a pistol, while reports emerged of aid convoys being hijacked and cash point machines being looted. Local officials warned Philippine President, Benigno Aquino III – who visited Tacloban on Sunday – that residents from nearby towns were entering the city to steal supplies and pleaded with him to declare martial law. Even Tacloban’s airport was reduced to a mere shell. But, now, survivors, authorities and media all crowd into the building through ragged gaps in its walls. The airport is both a makeshift command center – from which the army finally began, on Sunday, to deliver much-needed supplies – and the only way out for many survivors who are queuing hundreds-deep in an effort to leave the chaos behind. More grimly, the airport has been turned into a makeshift morgue for the growing number of bodies found stacked in churches, snagged on tree branches or underneath rubbles. Mass graves have been dug to accommodate the corpses; with Police Chief Elmer Soria reckoning that most victims either drowned or were crushed to death by crumbling buildings. “It was like a tsunami,” said Philippine Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who visited Tacloban on Sunday by helicopter. “I don’t know how to describe what I saw. It’s horrific.” With communications still inoperative across vast swaths of the hardest-hit areas, it is impossible to judge the scale of the destruction. Aid agencies warn that they cannot reach all those affected, with airports and harbors across the Philippines either entirely closed or badly disrupted. Emergency teams have been forced to try to reach survivors by foot; in many cases walking for hours over debris to access remote and ravaged areas. Luiza Carvalho, the U.N.’s resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Philippines, said it was vital that aid agencies reach those who are stranded in isolated areas. “They are at risk of further threats such as malnutrition, exposure to bad weather and unsafe drinking water,” she said. More than 350,000 people are awaiting supplies in 1,220 evacuation centers, with 4.3M people across the country affected by Haiyan, said Orla Fagan of the U.N. Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Rescue teams, deployed in Bogo City and San Remigio, on the island of Cebu, said some buildings have been flattened to the ground, with significant damage to both homes and sugar plantations, which have served as many residents’ primary source of income in

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