As the death toll continues to mount in the Philippines, stunned survivors of the world’s strongest hurricane to ever hit land are pleading for food, shelter and clean water.
The Daily Mail is reporting that four days after Super-typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, the extent of the devastation is finally being realized.
“It’s really horrific,” said Interior Secretary Mar Roxas about the overwhelming devastation. “It’s a great human tragedy.”
The hurricane, packing winds up to 235 mph, produced waves of up to 20 feet that are believed to have killed anywhere from 10-15,000 people and left 500,000 homeless after their homes were flattened. Whole villages were simply wiped off the map, huge ships were swept inland and bodies were left hanging from trees. Relief officials say the devastation is only rivaled by the disastrous Indian Ocean tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004.
In the hardest hit areas, such as Tacloban City, thousands of bodies are being discovered and piled up on the streets, with authorities warning that the death toll, which currently stands at 1,744 people, will “rise sharply.”
At present, makeshift mortuaries are being set up in any building left intact, such as churches where body bags are said to be lined up outside.
“Tacloban is totally destroyed,” said Andrew Pomeda, a 36 year-old teacher. “Some people are losing their minds from hunger or losing their families. People are becoming violent.”
Those suffering the most in the tragedy are the vulnerable, such as the elderly, the handicapped, and especially little children.
Thousands of children have been killed by the storm with one charity worker saying two out of every five bodies are youngsters.
“Children are particularly vulnerable in disasters,” said Lynette Lim, of Save the Children. “We fear for how many children have been washed away in floods, crushed under falling buildings and injured by flying debris. Many are separated from their families amid the devastation, and all are in desperate need of food, water and shelter.”
Unfortunately, reports of lawlessness are also mounting with gangs targeting ATM machines and looting shops. Philippines President Benigno Aquino deployed a column of armored vehicles to Tacloban to show the government’s resolve to stop these criminal activities.
Meanwhile, tens of millions of pounds of food and aid are beginning to pour into the country where an estimated 10 million are in need of basic supplies such as shelter, clean water and food.
The U.S. has already pledged $20 million in aid and is deploying the Japan-based USS George Washington to the area. The carrier, which holds 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft, will be joined by other support ships which have been assigned the duty of delivering humanitarian aid and relief to the most stricken areas.
The British have pledged $10 million and are also sending in teams of doctors and paramedics, temporary shelters, blankets and water purification tables for 300,000 people as well as household goods such as buckets, soap and sanitary items. They are also providing forklift trucks and other equipment to help clear and reopen runways and roads.
Handicap International said it was sending a team of emergency specialists into the area to assist the most vulnerable individuals, such as people with disabilities, older people and children.
“The devastation is worse than in Bandah Aceh, Indonesia, following the 2004 tsunami,” said Edith van Wijngaarden, the charity’s program director in the Philippines.
This is not the first disaster to hit the Philippines this year, which is why relief resources were thin at the time Haiyan struck. The central province of Bohol was struck by a 7.2 magnitude quake last month and the country sustained at least 20 other major weather events in the past year.
The Philippines typically experiences an average of 20 major storms a year because it is often the first major landmass storms reach after building over the Pacific Ocean.
In 2012, Typhoon Bopha left 2,000 dead or missing on the southern island of Mindanao, and Typhoon Washi killed 1,200 and displaced 300,000 when it struck the island in 2011.
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