As access continues to open to the areas worst hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines over the weekend, scenes of total destruction are emerging alongside a growing humanitarian disaster.
With the death toll previously reported at 10,000 people or more the new phase of the calamity is now being experienced by those who survived the terrifying storm but now face a crippled infrastructure with little or no access to food, water, electricity, or even basic medical care.
“The scene is one of utter devastation." Tata Abella-Bolo, Oxfam International
With relief organizations and the government mobilizing to search for survivors and deliver aid to the victims of the storm, the reports, images, and video footage from the islands and communities hardest hit—some of them leveled completely by storm surges and wind gusts from one of the most powerful tropical storms ever recorded—showed the extent of Haiyan's destructive force.
“The scene is one of utter devastation," said Tata Abella-Bolo, a member of Oxfam International's emergency team on the central island of Cebu. "There is no electricity in the entire area and no water. Local emergency food stocks have been distributed but stocks are dwindling. The immediate need is for water, both for drinking and cleaning.”
The team reported that nearly all the houses and buildings in the areas they visited were damaged, with power lines down and no electricity in the entire municipality. The team spoke of seeing children begging for help, holding up signs that read: “Help. We need water, food and medicines.”
Oxfam warns that there at least 18 million people living in the worst affected regions and that millions more have been negatively impacted across the nation.
At a government press conference, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said, "The situation is bad, the devastation has been significant. In some cases the devastation has been total."
"The only reason why we have no reports of casualties up to now is that communications systems ... are down," added Colonel John Sanchez of the Philippines armed forces.
Showing newly available aerial photographs from eastern islands that took the brunt of the storm's wrath, Sanchez added, "One hundred percent of the structures either had their roofs blown away or sustained major damage."
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As the Associated Press reports:
Haiyan inflicted serious damage to at least six of the archipelago's more than 7,000 islands, with Leyte, neighboring Samar Island, and the northern part of Cebu appearing to bear the brunt of the storm. About 4 million people were affected by the storm, the national disaster agency said.
On Leyte, regional Police Chief Elmer Soria said the provincial governor had told him there were about 10,000 deaths there, primarily from drowning and collapsed buildings. Most were in Tacloban, a city of about 200,000 that is the biggest on the island.
On Samar, Leo Dacaynos of the provincial disaster office said 300 people were confirmed dead in one town and another 2,000 were missing, with some towns yet to be reached by rescuers. He pleaded for food and water, adding that power was out and there was no cellphone signal, making communication possible only by radio.
Reports from other affected islands indicated dozens, perhaps hundreds more deaths.
Video from Eastern Samar province's Guiuan township — the first area where the typhoon made landfall — showed a trail of devastation. Many houses were flattened and roads were strewn with debris and uprooted trees. The ABS-CBN video showed several bodies on the street, covered with blankets.
"Even me, I have no house, I have no clothes. I don't know how I will restart my life, I am so confused," an unidentified woman said, crying. "I don't know what happened to us. We are appealing for help. Whoever has a good heart, I appeal to you — please help Guiuan."