An aerial photo by AFP shows houses in Tacloban destroyed by the strong winds of Typhoon Yolanda. AFP PHOTO


Tacloban City on Saturday put a face to the death and devastation inflicted by Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan), with bodies scattered in the streets, buildings flattened by savage winds and giant waves, and people walking around dazed and begging for help.

The extent of the destruction in Leyte’s capital, a city of 220,000 people, slowly emerged at daybreak Saturday as the government began to rush aid to areas that Yolanda smashed with 315-kilometer-per-hour winds.

More than four million people were affected across 36 provinces, officials said.

Many of the worst-hit areas remained cut off from communications on Saturday, with power and telephone networks destroyed, but initial accounts from some areas reached by the military and the media painted a deeply ominous picture.

In Tacloban, the city’s airport manager reported more than 100 bodies were littered in and around the facility, with at least 100 more people injured.

“The terminal, the tower, including communication equipment, were destroyed,” Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) deputy chief John Andrews told Agence France-Presse, as he recounted the airport manager’s assessment.

Large areas of Tacloban were flattened, according to a news agency photographer who reached the coastal city aboard a military plane carrying relief supplies.

Storm surges more than three meters (10 feet) had pounded the area, the Philippine Red Cross said.

In scenes reminiscent of tsunami damage, some houses in Tacloban were completely destroyed, with piles of splintered wood lying on concrete slabs, while others had just the stone frames remaining.

Almost all the trees and electric posts were torn down, while cars were overturned.

Some dazed and injured survivors wandered around the carnage asking journalists for water, while others sorted through what was left of their destroyed homes.

Eight bodies had been laid to rest inside the airport’s chapel, which had also been badly damaged.

Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said the typhoon likely killed hundreds of people.

“I think hundreds,” Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said on ABS-CBN television when asked how many people had died in the coastal town of Palo and surrounding villages that he visited on devastated Leyte island.

Palo and the neighboring city of Tacloban were struck by devastating storm surges early Friday as Yolanda began scything through major central islands, disaster officials have said.

Petilla, a Palo native, was dispatched by President Benigno Aquino 3rd to the island, and surveyed the damage aboard a helicopter.

“We saw 24 corpses in Palo, but officials there reported to us that there are people in nearby areas planning to bring their dead to the town center,” he said.

“Palo, Ormoc, Burauen… Carigara, they all looked the same. The buildings were all unroofed and littered with fallen trees,” he said, describing the devastation in some of the other Leyte towns and cities that he visited.

Rescue work starts

Yolanda blew out of the country Saturday morning as government and civilian volunteer groups started ferrying relief, rescue and telecommunication facilities and volunteer workers to help in the worst-hit areas of the worst ever storm that hit land.

Malacañang officially confirmed receiving reports of over 100 deaths in Tacloban, but hundreds more are missing in Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga City, Surigao del Sur; Masbate, Bicol and Palawan.

CAAP Deputy Director General John Andrews flew to Tacloban on a Philippine Air Force C-130 cargo plane to assess the damage on the airport. He brought with him supplies, food, medicine and communication equipment.

CAAP Director General William Hotchkiss said airport runways in Iloilo, Caticlan, Romblon, Dumaguete, Bacolod, Masbate, Legazpi and Surigao were being cleared of debris.

Military reports identified three of the dead as Regie Francisco Bucoy, 2, who was hit by lightning in Zamboanga City and Jimmy Cabilan, 56, in Surigao del Sur and Rhandy Cejar in Iloilo, both electrocution victims.

Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said in an interview with CNN Secretaries Mar Roxas 2nd of Interior and Local Government and Voltaire Gazmin of National Defense were in the Visayas even before the storm hit.

Almendras said the government was setting up command centers in Western and Eastern Visayas to better coordinate relief efforts.

Eastern Visayas covers the islands of Samar, Leyte and Biliran, while Western Visayas is composed of Aklan, Antique, Negros Occidental, Capiz, Guimaras and Iloilo.

Roxas airport remained closed until Sunday while Kalibo airport is expected to resume operations on Monday. Tacloban and Busuanga airports were severely damaged.

“While the casualties are lower in the Western part compared with the East, the destruction brought by the typhoon was just as bad. We expect more people to be housed in the evacuation centers,” Almendras said.

“We have pre-positioned relief goods and that would be good for two to three days,” he added.

The National Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) placed the death toll from Yolanda at four, with seven people injured and four missing.

Interviewed on state-run Radyo ng Bayan, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino has tasked government officials to prioritize the safety of the people and ensure that the lines of communication are restored as soon as possible.

Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and PAL Express said they would resume their flights once the provincial airports are fully cleared. Over 90 flights had been cancelled because of Yolanda.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) sent a team headed by Special Action Force commander Director Carmelo Valmoria to Eastern Visayas to assist in the search, rescue and rehabilitation efforts in Leyte and restore communication lines, according to PNP Public Information Chief, S/Supt. Theodore Sindac.

Fifteen thousand soldiers had been deployed to the disaster zones, military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala told Agence France-Presse.

He said helicopters were also flying rescuers into priority areas, while infantry units deployed across the affected areas were also proceeding on foot or in military trucks.

Another area of particular concern was Guiuan, a fishing town of about 40,000 people on Samar that was the first to be hit after Yolanda swept in from the Pacific Ocean. The Red Cross said contact had not yet been made with Guiuan.

The Philippines suffered the world’s strongest storm of 2012, when Typhoon Pablo left about 2,000 people dead or missing in Mindanao.


A barangay hall, also in Iloilo, collapses at the height of the typhoon’s fury. AFP PHOTOS

MEMBERS of a United Nations (UN) disaster assessment coordination unit who visited Tacloban City on Saturday were shocked by the extent of devastation wrought by typhoon Yolanda on the province.

According to Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, head of the team, roads are strewn with debris making them impassable. The only way to get around is by helicopter.

Stampa reported that the level of destruction was unprecedented.

“The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami,” Stampa said. She was referring to the tsunami generated by a magnitude 9 earthquake that hit Indonesia on December 26, 2004, killing more than 230,000 people in 14 countries.

“This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumbleweed and the streets are strewn with debris,” he added.

The UN team arrived to prepare the ground work for an inter-agency humanitarian assessment.

“The roads between the airport and the town are completely blocked and relief operations will be extremely difficult,” Stampa said.

Jeff Masters, the director of meteorology of US-based Weather Underground, said that Samar endured catastrophic winds when the typhoon made landfall in the town of Guiuan. ‘Yolanda’ was packing winds of 190-195 miles per hour when it slammed into the island, making it the strongest cyclone in history to make landfall.

“Wind damage on the south shore of Samar Island in Guiuan must have been catastrophic, perhaps the greatest wind damage any place on Earth has endured from a tropical cyclone in the past century,” Masters said. “I’ve never witnessed a Category 5 storm that made landfall and stayed at Category 5 strength after spending so many hours over land, and there are very few storms that have stayed at category 5 strength for so long.”

Dr. Julie Hall, UN acting Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines, extended her sympathies to the Philippine government, most especially to the typhoon victims in Leyte and Samar.

“We wish to extend our deepest sympathy to the government and the people of the Philippines who have been affected by this devastating typhoon which appears to have caused significant damage across a large tract of the Visayas,” Hall said.

The UN in the Philippines and its humanitarian partners also vowed that they will help the government in assessing the damage caused by Yolanda.

“We are working very closely with the government and are ready to respond in any way we can to this tragedy,” Hall said.
“The humanitarian country team and partners are fully prepared to support and assist government in response to this latest typhoon,” she added.

Enough resources

Malacañang gave assurances on Saturday that the government has enough resources to rehabilitate damaged infrastructures in Leyte and other areas.

In a radio interview, Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said the government will help rebuild the province.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas reported to President Benigno Aquino 3rd that damage to property and infrastructure in Leyte is massive.

“We have the Core Shelter Assistance program to help those whose houses were either partially damaged or destroyed,” Valte said. WITH A REPORT FROM PNA

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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