Aftermath of one of the strongest storms on record slammed into the central Philippines. Bodies lay in the streets of one of the hardest-hit cities, an official said Saturday
TACLOBAN, Philippines — The destruction here is staggering: No building in this coastal city of 200,000 residents appeared Saturday to have escaped damage when Super Typhoon Haiyan roared through on Friday.
Roads were impassable; all communications except for satellite phones were down; medical supplies, food and water were scarce; and there were reports of looting.
The costs — in human lives, buildings and infrastructure — were impossible to estimate with confidence as bodies washed up on beaches and littered the streets.
The nation’s interior minister said only that they would be high. Reports are that the death toll will likely exceed 1,100.
The million people who lived along the coast, many of them in rough-built shacks, may have been worst affected by what some said was a 5-foot storm surge that spread through the city at the height of the storm and with devastating speed.
It receded quickly, leaving a path marked by pieces of people’s lives destroyed.
One woman said she lost three of her daughters — ages 8, 13 and 15 — in seconds as the storm surge tore them from her husband’s arms. The couple had found the bodies of the two youngest.
“Only one is missing,” the father said, his face contorting with grief. “I hope she’s alive.”
The city airport was not ready to accommodate the landing of planes carrying aid, though military helicopters began ferrying in supplies on Saturday.
Residents lined up at the airport for food. But the resources available were proving no match for the massive needs of the people, some of whom scoured piles of garbage in the streets for food, water or even missing loved ones.
Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross, estimated that 1,000 people died here.
“Probably the casualty figure will increase as we get more information from remote areas, which have been cut off from communications,” said Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF’s Philippines representative.
Philippines gets more than its share of disasters.
Tacloban suffered the greatest devastation, said Lt. Jim Aris Alago, information officer for Navy Central Command. “There are numbers of undetermined casualties found along the roads.
“We expect the greatest number of casualties there,” Alago said.
People were wading through waist-high water amid a landscape littered with overturned vehicles, downed utility poles and trees, all of which were blocking the aid effort.
The Philippine Red Cross succeeded in getting its assessment team in to Tacloban but had not managed to get its main team of aid workers and equipment to the city, Chairman Richard Gordon said.
“We really are having access problems,” he said, adding that he was considering chartering a boat, which would take at least 1½ days to get there.
Tacloban is the largest city in the Eastern Visayas Islands. It was an important logistical base during World War II and served as a temporary capital of the Philippines.