U.S. Marine Corps Osprey aircraft arrive at Manila's Villamor Airbase to deliver humanitarian aid on November 11.CNN

TACLOBAN CITY, NOVEMBER 13, 2013 (CNN) By Andrew Stevens and Paula Hancocks, CNN updated 12:43 AM EST, Mon November 11, 2013


Tacloban, Philippines (CNN) -- As the Philippines faced a long, grim path to recovery in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, the storm plowed into northeastern Vietnam early Monday, packing powerful winds and forcing hundreds of thousands to evacuate.

Philippine authorities warned that the typhoon may have killed thousands there, leaving behind a trail of devastation on a scale they'd never seen before.


No electricity. No food. No water. Houses and buildings leveled. Bodies scattered on the streets. Hospitals overrun with patients. Medical supplies running out.

And a death toll that could soar.

The Philippine Red Cross estimates that at least 1,200 people were killed by the storm, but that number could grow as officials make their way to remote areas made nearly inaccessible by Haiyan.

Others put the toll much higher: The International Committee of the Red Cross said it's realistic to estimate that 10,000 people may have died nationally.

The grim task of counting the bodies was just beginning Monday as authorities sifted through the rubble of what was left behind in hard-hit cities like Tacloban on the island of Leyte. The official toll stood at 255 Monday, according to the country's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

"I have not spoken to anyone who has not lost someone, a relative close to them. We are looking for as many as we can," Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez told CNN.

CLICK TO VIEW Interactive map of the storm

'This is really, really like bad'

Desperately needed aid was making its way into the storm-ravaged city of Tacloban on Monday. C-130 planes arrived, carrying food, water and supplies. Other planes left -- some of them carrying body bags with storm victims.

A steady stream of typhoon survivors arrived at Tacloban airport, looking for food, water and escape.

Magina Fernandez was among them. She had lost her home and business. And she was desperate to leave on the next military plane.

She made an anguished plea for help.

Water levels reached the second story Survivor: Conditions 'worse than hell' Social media helping in wake of typhoon Typhoon survivors desperate for help Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts--- "Get international help to come here now -- not tomorrow, now," she said.

"This is really, really like bad, bad, worse than hell, worse than hell."

She directed some of her anger at Philippines President Benigno Aquino III,(photo attop  left) who on Sunday toured some of the areas hit hardest by the typhoon, including Tacloban.

Many of the people in the city, population 200,000, are angry at the authorities' slow response to the disaster.
Aquino said there was a breakdown, especially at the local government level.

"They are necessary first responders, and too many of them were also affected and did not report for work," he explained, saying that contributed to the slow delivery.

Aquino said the government will coordinate with the local units and put more people to work.

Debris lays scattered around a damaged home near the Tacloban airport on November 12.CNN

Supplies become scarce

In Tacloban, the search for food and water led to increasingly desperate efforts.

Video showed people breaking into grocery stores and cash machines in the city.

National police and the military sent reinforcements to the city Sunday to prevent such thefts. And authorities said they were sending several hundred additional security personnel into the city to keep law and order.

Another dire scene played out in the city's only functioning hospital. Doctors couldn't admit any more wounded victims -- there wasn't enough room. Some of the injured lay in the hospital's cramped hallways seeking treatment.

"We haven't anything left to help people with," one of the doctors said. "We have to get supplies in immediately."
Complicating the search efforts is the lack of electricity in many parts of the storm's path.

The northern part of Bogo, in the central Philippines, suffered a blackout Sunday, and authorities said it will take months to restore power.

Crews search for victims, survivors

Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez

Romualdez, Tacloban's mayor, told CNN that reports 10,000 people may have died in Leyte province were "entirely possible."

"People here were convinced that it looked like a tsunami," he said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it is fairly realistic to estimate that 10,000 people may have died nationally, because many areas are unreachable by organizations.

"In the western islands of Philippines, for instance, no one can evaluate the casualties," said ICRC spokesman David Pierre Marquet.

"It could effectively be a number close to 10,000," Marquet told CNN. "But the notion that 10,000 people are dead in Tacloban alone is not possible."

Aid groups struggle to reach those suffering

The UN's World Food Programme is setting up logistic pipelines to transport food and other relief items.

"The main challenges right now are related to logistics," said WFP representative Praveen Agrawal, who returned to Manila from the affected areas on Sunday. "Roads are blocked, airports are destroyed."

WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher said the U.N. group was gearing up its global resources to send enough food to feed 120,000 people.

"These high-energy biscuits will keep them alive," she said.

Luescher pleaded for financial support from the international community and directed those wishing to donate to

"Those are families like you and me, and they just need our help right now," she said.

General asks for U.S. warships in typhoon relief By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent updated 11:17 AM EST, Tue November 12, 2013


Washington (CNN) -- The hundreds of thousands of typhoon victims in the Philippines need help and they need it now, the U.S. Marine Corps general in charge of the U.S. military relief effort says.

Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy told CNN he needs immediate dispatch of U.S. Navy amphibious ships that carry equipment that can make potable water and the variety of helicopters, small boats, trucks and other supplies needed in the relief effort.

"They are the Swiss army knife of the U.S. military," Kennedy said of the amphibious ships, speaking to CNN in a telephone interview from the Philippines. Kennedy says he believes his request will be approved by the Pentagon in the coming hours.

As many as four warships could be headed to the Philippines. That includes three that are home-ported in the Pacific, which are now under orders to to prepare to deploy in the next 48 hours, a senior Pentagon official told CNN.

U.S. Marines arrive in Philippines

CNN US Marines arrived in the Philippines overnight as death tolls soared in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

Kennedy said the most crucial need right now is to provide shelter for the tens of thousands of displaced people, as well as food, water and sanitation. The situation is so dire there may not even be enough time or capability to fly in portable toilets, and human waste may have to be burned in place, he said.

While U.S. Marines are on the ground providing aid and more U.S. military help has been dispatched, Kennedy said more help is urgently needed.

"The rest of the world needs to get mobilized, the rest of the donor community," he told NBC News. "A week from now will be too late. "

"We can't wait," said Martin Romualdez, a Philippines congressman. "People have gone three days without any clean water, food and medication," he told CNN's "Piers Morgan Live." "People are getting desperate."

Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines on Friday as one of the most powerful storms ever recorded on Earth.
By Tuesday, officials had counted 1,774 deaths from the storm, but say that number may just be scratching the surface.

They fear Haiyan may have taken as many as 10,000 lives.

With wind gusts well above 200 mph and a massive storm surge, the storm displaced at least 800,000 people, the United Nations said Tuesday.

More than 2 million people need food aid, the Philippine government said.

Compounding relief efforts Tuesday was a new tropical low, Zoraida, which has dumped four inches of rain in some of the hard-hit areas. That makes the amphibious ships Kennedy has asked for even more vital.

The amphibious ships have tracked "assault amphibious vehicles" that can carry supplies and move over and through piles of debris to distribution points where aid is needed most.

The Pentagon has dispatched the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and the other ships that were visiting Hong Kong to the disaster area. But they will be used mainly for refueling helicopters and assisting in aerial search and rescue and wide area surveillance.

The U.S. military relief effort will take supplies to distribution points, but those supplies will be then handed out by Philippines forces, Kennedy said. Local forces are in the best position to know community leaders and make sure those in the most need are getting the help, he added.

As of Tuesday night in the Philippines, lights and radars are being assembled at the airport in Tacloban, at the heart of the disaster zone, and the facility is expected to be running full day and nighttime operations within 24 hours, he said.

11:16 AM ET
Where was God in the Philippines? By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) – The disasters are always different and often devastating. But the questions they raise are hauntingly familiar.

In the days since Super Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines on Thursday, survivors are frantically searching for lost family members and international aid groups are springing into action.

Officials say the death toll may rise to 10,000 in the heavily Catholic country. Meanwhile, many people are asking: How should we make sense of such senseless death and destruction? Was God in the whirlwind itself, as the Bible hints, or present only in the aftermath, as people mobilize to provide food, water and shelter?

These questions may not be new, but we keep asking them, perhaps because the answers remain so elusive.

For many Americans, a paradox sits at the heart of their thinking about natural disasters. According to a survey taken after 2011's earthquake and tsunami in Japan, most Americans (56%) believe that God is control of everything.

But more Americans blame hurricanes, earthquakes and other storms on global warming (58%) than on an angry and punishing deity (38%), according to a 2011 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute.

“These kind of questions about God being in control and there simultaneously being suffering are the kind of things that keep seminarians up at night," institute CEO Robert P. Jones said in 2011.

"They’re thorny theological issues."

READ: Typhoon Haiyan: Survivors in Philippines face grim struggle as death toll rises

People ride past destruction in Tacloban on Sunday, November 10.CNN

The Bible's Psalm 107 says that “For (God) commands, and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves thereof. ... He turns rivers into a wilderness, and the water springs into dry ground."

But, as the poll shows, most Americans have moved past the idea that God causes natural disasters, wrote Stephen Prothero, a frequent CNN contributor, in a 2011 column.

"When it comes to earthquakes and hurricanes, our authorities are geologists and meteorologists," Prothero said as he rode out Hurricane Irene on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. "Most of us interpret these events not through the rumblings of the biblical prophet Jeremiah or the poetry of the Book of Revelation but through the scientific truths of air pressure and tectonic plates."

For atheists, storms like Haiyan are proof that God doesn't exist, author and activist Sam Harris said.

"Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or he doesn’t care to, or he doesn’t exist. God is either impotent, evil or imaginary," Harris said after Japan's tsunami. "Take your pick, and choose wisely."

God may or may not be in withering storms, but many religious leaders say they sense a divine presence in the aftermath, as people across the world mobilize to lend a hand.

Rabbi Harold Kushner is one of the most famous names in the realm of theodicy, a branch of theology that tries to explain the unexplainable: why a good God would allow bad things to happen.

After Japan's tsunami, Kushner called nature "an equal-opportunity destroyer," making no distinctions between sinners and saints.

But Kushner, author of the bestselling book "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," said he sees God's hand in the resilience of people whose lives have been destroyed and in the "goodness and generosity" of strangers who donate and pray for the survivors.

READ: How to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan


Capiz, Philippines, on November 11

Iloilo, Philippines, on Saturday, November 9

Guiuan, Eastern Samar on November 11

That still leaves a tricky question, though: Why do humans suffer, sometimes terribly, in the first place?

There's no good answer, says the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and best-selling author.

"Each person has to come to grips with that," Martin said. "It’s not as if some magic answer can be found. But the idea of God suffering along with us can be very helpful."

Muslims, on the other hand, see stormy trials as tests from God, said Sayyid Syeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North America’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances.

"Muslims believe that God tests those he loves, and these tragedies also serve as a reminder to the rest of us to remain grateful to God for all our blessings and cognizant that we must support those in need," Syeed said.

Vietnamese Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh, whose native country remains in Haiyan's path, said such storms remind us that our lives are impermanent and the importance of treasuring each moment.

"This is the best that we can do for those who have died: We can live in such a way that they can feel they are continuing to live in us, more mindfully, more profoundly, more beautifully, tasting every minute of life available to us, for them," Hanh said.

Stephen Prothero, Jessica Ravitz and Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

Daniel Burke - CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

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