Wednesday 22 November 2017

'All blown away like matchsticks'

* Thousands dead * Shops looted

Scenes of devastation in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan
Scenes of devastation in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan
A father and his children wait for food relief in Tacloban
Residents in Tacloban cover their noses from the smell of dead bodies

Kathy Marks

The scale of destruction visited on the Philippines by "super typhoon" Haiyan became clear yesterday as the winds subsided, with 10,000 people dead in one city alone, villages washed away and survivors looting grocery shops and attacking aid trucks.

After flying over the island of Leyte – probably the worst affected place – in a helicopter, the Interior Secretary, Manuel Roxas, said: "From the shore and moving a kilometre inland, there are no structures standing. I don't know how to describe what I saw . . . It's horrific." He added: "Imagine . . . all the shanties, everything, destroyed. They were just like matchsticks flung inland."

In the provincial capital, Tacloban, which bore the brunt of the ferocious winds and monster waves whipped up by one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, corpses floated in floodwaters, hung in trees and lay among the debris of flattened buildings. Survivors wept as they retrieved the bodies of loved ones from the ruins of their homes.

With emergency teams yet to reach coastal villages cut off by floods and landslides, authorities predicted an even higher death toll. There were grave fears for places such as Guiuan, a town of 40,000 people which was the first to be struck by Haiyan as it roared across the central and southern Philippines on Friday, flinging ships inland and destroying 70 to 80pc of buildings in its path.

In Tacloban, which had a population of 220,000, "people are walking like zombies looking for food," said Jenny Chu, a medical student. Troops and police were sent in to restore order after looters raided shops and petrol stations in search of food, water and fuel. President Benigno Aquino, who visited Tacloban yesterday, said the government was considering introducing martial law.


One teacher, Andrew Pomeda, told reporters: "Some people are losing their minds from hunger or from losing their families. People are becoming violent. They are looting business establishments, the malls, just to find food, rice and milk . . . I am afraid that in one week, people will be killed from hunger."

The typhoon – which was bearing down on Vietnam yesterday, in a weaker state – produced tsunami-like storm surges which drowned many in its path.

Others died beneath collapsed buildings. Even by the standards of the Philippines, which is prone to typhoons as well as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Haiyan is almost certainly its most lethal to date.

Authorities had plenty of notice, and evacuated nearly 800,000 people. But "how can you beat that typhoon?" asked the head of defence forces.(© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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