Tacloban devastated; at least 100 dead

Natashya Gutierrez

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(3rd UPDATE) Few homes are standing, government officials say; devastation is widespread in the city. Little to no information is coming out of many areas of Eastern Visayas because of cut communication lines.

DEVASTATION IN TACLOBAN. A general shot shows houses destroyed by the strong winds caused by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) at Tacloban, eastern island of Leyte on November 9, 2013. AFP/Noel Celis

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The outside world is slowly getting an idea of the extent of damage left in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda (international codename Haiyan), with reports of at least a hundred dead and extensive damage to infrastructure.

Capt John Andrews, Deputy Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), told dzMM that he got reports of roughly 100 people presumed dead in Tacloban, “and that’s only the count of bodies on the streets.”

“This report was relayed to us by our station manager so it is considered very reliable information,” he told the station. The information was relayed by high-frequency radio to authorities.

In the town of Palo, Leyte, Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, who was dispatched by President Benigno Aquino III to the province, told ABS-CBN he believes “hundreds” died due to Yolanda. 

Petilla, a Palo native, 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.”

Of the region, Philippine Red Cross chief Gwendolyn Pang told Agence France-Presse, “We have reports of collapsed buildings, houses flattened to the ground, storm surges and landslides.” 

“But we don’t know really, we can’t say how bad the damage is… hopefully today we can get a better picture as to the effects of the super typhoon,” Pang added.

Guiuan, a fishing town of about 40,000 people on Samar, was the first to be hit after Haiyan swept in from the Pacific Ocean. Pang said contact had not yet been made with Guiuan.

She also said relief workers were trying to reach Capiz province, about 200 kilometers west of Tacloban, on Panay island where she said most of the region’s infrastructure had been destroyed.

Tacloban is Eastern Visayas’ regional administrative center, and the capital of Leyte, a province of at least 2 million people. Little to no information is coming out of many areas of Eastern Visayas because of cut communication lines. 

‘Completely ruined’ airport

STILL ALIVE. A man searches for salvageable materials among debris of his destroyed house near Tacloban Airport, eastern island of Leyte on November 9, 2013. AFP/Noel Celis

Andrews also said, “According to the station manager the airport is completely ruined.”

Andrews also told dzMM that clearing operations at the Tacloban City airport began at 5 am after airport operations there were completely down. “The news I received is there was nothing left of the Tacloban airport but the runway,” he said.

Andrews later recounted the assessment of the airport manager to the Agence France-Presse, saying, “The terminal, the tower, including communication equipment, were destroyed.”

Rappler’s Rupert Ambil, who arrived at the Daniel Z. Romualdez airport, reported a lack of public transportation for relief workers. This forces everyone to walk from the airport to the provincial capitol, he said. It also makes relief efforts and supply deliveries more difficult.

While communication remains limited and reports remain sketchy and inaccurate, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) spokesman Rey Balido told dzMM radio in an interview on Saturday morning, they have gotten “initial contact” from their team in the city Friday night, November 8.

“They said the damage inflicted by super typhoon Yolanda was severe,” he said in the interview. “They said there are barely any houses [left] standing.”

Balido said a few buildings reportedly remain intact but that most houses were crushed by fallen trees. He said they are still trying to determine the exact number of casualties.

“Our team there said many died but they were unable to tell us how many,” he said.

Call for volunteers

PRIORITY RELIEF. The government says it is now prioritizing providing relief to Tacloban City, which was badly hit by super typhoon Yolanda. Photo by Rappler

The government expressed alarm on Saturday about the unfolding scale of the disaster.

“We are very concerned about the situation there,” Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras told reporters, when asked about the deaths in and around Tacloban.

“The President is asking why there were still fatalities.”

A journalist on the ground in Tacloban described chaos in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda, with “a lot of wounded” from the typhoon and hospitals unable to treat everyone due to the number of injured. The reporter also noted “looting everywhere” as people in Tacloban scramble for supplies, such as water.

The city was previously cut off completely from all contact to the outside world, and government officials were at a loss as to the extent of damage in the city. 

In a separate interview with radio dzBB, Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras backed Balido’s statement, saying he also received reports of massive damage in Tacloban City, which led to the government’s decision to send a C-130 flight with relief goods to the city.

“We are very concerned with the situation in Tacloban that is why (Social Welfare) Sec. (Dinky) Soliman is on the C-130 now flying to Tacloban,” he said.

He also called for volunteers.

“We are at the stage of rescue and relief. Our priority right now is to bring relief goods,” he said.

Military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala told Agence France-Presse that 15,000 soldiers had been deployed to the disaster zones. “We are flying sorties to bring relief goods, materials and communication equipment,” Zagala said.

Government relief goods are on their way to Tacloban City as of posting time. 

‘Like a war zone’

South of the city, the Visayas State University in Baybay City, Leyte – being used as an evacuation center – was described as being “like a war zone,” a resident told Rappler Mover Derek Alviola.

One of the most intense typhoons on record, Yolanda whipped the central part of the country for most of Friday, November 8, and terrified millions.

Yolanda smashed into coastal communities on the central island of Samar before dawn on Friday with maximum sustained winds of about 235 km/h and gusts of up to 275 km/h, according to PAGASA. Foreign meterologists said it hit land with winds of 315 km/h, one of the strongest ever recorded. It is one of the most intense typhoons ever to make landfall.

Yolanda swept across the Visayas, destroying phone and power lines, as well as homes and vital infrastructure. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com


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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.