The Philippines struggled to bury the dead and get food, water and medicine to the living Tuesday, four days after Super Typhoon Haiyan claimed untold lives and flattened countless buildings.
“Right now, we don’t have enough water,” typhoon survivor Roselda Sumapit told CNN in Tacloban, a city of more than 200,000 that was flattened by the storm. What they can get may not be clean, she said — but she added, “We still drink it, because we need to survive.”
The government put the confirmed death toll at 1,774 early Tuesday but fears as many as 10,000 may have died. Corpses — some crudely covered, others left exposed to the burning sun — added another hellish element to survival in Tacloban, the capital of the southern island province of Leyte.
“We have bodies in the water, bodies on the bridges, bodies on the side of the road,” said Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.
Troops and aid organizations battled blocked roads and devastating damage to deliver help to stranded Filipinos and search for survivors in the splintered wreckage of homes. Tomoo Hozumi, the Philippines representative of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, said food, shelter, clean water and basic sanitation were “in a severe shortage” early Tuesday.
“The situation on the ground is very hideous,” he told CNN’s The Situation Room.
The Philippine government reported early Tuesday that 2.5 million people needed food aid, including nearly 300,000 pregnant women or new mothers. International aid was beginning to work its way to the stricken islands.
“Our house got demolished. My father died after being hit by falling wooden debris,” one woman told the Philippine television network ANC. “We are calling for your help. If possible, please bring us food. We don’t have anything to eat.”
Gordon said police were needed to guard aid shipments: “Any truck, any helicopter that lands is going to be surrounded by people in need,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.
Compounding the misery, a new tropical depression dumped heavy rain on the area Tuesday morning. The system, dubbed Zoraida by the Philippine meteorological agency, was centered southeast of the southern island of Mindanao, moving northwest with top winds of 55 kilometers per hour (35 mph).
‘Worse than hell’
Haiyan struck Friday, sending a wall of water crashing into neighborhoods of wooden houses along the Gulf of Leyte and flinging large ships ashore like toys. Its top winds were estimated at 315 kph (195 mph) — a figure that could set a new record for tropical cyclones if confirmed.
Magina Fernandez, who was trying to get out of Tacloban at the city’s crippled airport, described the situation there as “worse than hell.”
“Get international help to come here now — not tomorrow, now,” she said, directing some of her anger at Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, who toured some of the hardest-hit areas Sunday.
Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, who narrowly escaped death during the storm’s fury, said he hadn’t spoken to anyone “who has not lost someone, a relative close to them.”
Aid pledges began to pour in on Monday — $25 million from the United Nations, 3 million euros ($4 million) from the European Union, 10 million pounds ($16 million) from Britain and $10 million from the United Arab Emirates, home to a large population of expatriate Filipino workers.
U.N. and U.S. civilian disaster assessment teams were on the scene. U.S. Marines based in Japan worked to outfit Tacloban’s shattered airport with lights, radar and other gear to allow it to operate 24 hours a day.
The United States also announced that the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and three escort ships have been dispatched to the Philippines to assist in recovery efforts. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the carrier to head for the islands at “best speed” from Hong Kong, where it was on a port visit, the Pentagon said. Two other American vessels, including a supply ship, are already headed for the Phillippines, the Pentagon said.
The U.S. Agency for International Development is sending emergency shelter materials and basic hygiene supplies to aid 10,000 families as well as 55 metric tons of emergency rations sufficient to feed 20,000 children and 15,000 adults for up to five days. Both shipments were expected to arrive this week, the agency said.
And British Prime Minister David Cameron announced Monday night that his government was also sending a cargo plane and the destroyer HMS Daring to assist, he said.
Difficult to assess death toll
But Tacloban is far from the only devastated area. Authorities are trying to establish the level of destruction elsewhere along Haiyan’s path, and other settlements along the coast are likely to have suffered a similar fate to Tacloban’s.
Aid workers said the recovery from Haiyan will take many months.
“This disaster on such a scale will probably have us working for the next year,” said Sandra Bulling, international communications officer for the aid agency CARE. “Fishermen have lost their boats. Crops are devastated. This is really the basic income of many people.”
Across the Gulf of Leyte lies Samar, where Haiyan made its first of six deadly landfalls on the Philippines on Friday. Government and aid officials say they are still trying to reach many affected communities on that island.
A similar challenge exists farther west, on the islands of Cebu and Panay, which also suffered direct hits from the typhoon.
Aquino declared a “state of national calamity,” which allows more latitude in rescue and recovery operations and gives the government power to set the prices of basic goods. Authorities are funneling aid on military planes to Tacloban’s airport, which resumed limited commercial flights Monday. As aid workers, government officials and journalists came in, hundreds of residents waited in long lines hoping to get out.
‘They’ve lost everything’
The problems are the same in other stricken regions.
“The main challenges right now are related to logistics,” said Praveen Agrawal of the U.N.’s World Food Programme, who returned to Manila from the affected areas Sunday. “Roads are blocked, airports are destroyed.”
The need for food and water has led to increasingly desperate efforts. People have broken into grocery and department stores in Tacloban, and local businessman Richard Young said he and others had formed a group to protect their businesses.
“We have our firearms. We will shoot within our property,” he said.
Authorities have sent police and military reinforcements to try to bring the situation under control.
Another dire scene played out in the city’s only functioning hospital over the weekend. Doctors couldn’t admit any more wounded victims because there wasn’t enough room. Some injured lay in the hospital’s cramped hallways seeking treatment.
“We haven’t anything left to help people with,” one doctor 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.
Storm moves onto Vietnam
Meteorologists said it will take further analysis to confirm whether Haiyan — with gusts reported at first landfall to be up to 235 mph (375 kph) — set a record.
After leaving the Philippines, the storm lost power as it moved across the South China Sea over the weekend. It hit the coast of northern Vietnam early Monday and weakened as it moved inland.
Vietnamese authorities had evacuated 800,000 people, according to the United Nations, and the state-run Vietnam News Agency said five people died there.
Aid workers said Vietnam was likely to avoid damage on the scale suffered by the Philippines but warned that heavy rain brought could cause flooding and landslides in northern Vietnam and southern China.
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