The Philippines is just now starting to assess the damage caused by the landfall of one of the most powerful tropical cyclones in recorded history.
As Mark reported, Typhoon Haiyan roared over the Philippines with top sustained winds at nearly 200 mph.
One of the hardest hit areas appears to be Tacloban City, which faced a 40-foot storm surge. The New York Times, quoting Cap. John Andrews, deputy director general of the civil aviation authority, reports that at least 100 cadavers were seen on the streets. The country’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council puts the number of dead at 138.
There are reports of many more deaths across the country. For now, we’ll stay away from numbers, but it’s a pretty safe bet to say that this will be a mass casualty event.
The Times adds:
“As rescuers make their way to isolated areas and communications are restored, officials worried that the death toll could rise significantly. Damage was believed to have been extensive, in part because many structures in poorer regions are not well built.
“As the typhoon barreled toward Vietnam, where it is expected to hit landfall Sunday morning, roughly 20,000 people were evacuated from Da Nang, a city of nearly 1 million, state media reported. The government mobilized nearly 450,000 soldiers and militia members to deal with the storm, which is expected to weaken slightly as it hits Vietnam.
“By some accounts the typhoon, named Haiyan, ranked among the world’s strongest. But because it moved across the Philippines so rapidly and hundreds of thousands were evacuated, officials were hoping that the death toll would be limited. Experts say that is because it did not linger long enough to deluge the islands with rain that has caused the widespread flooding and mudslides that have in the past lead to death tolls in the thousands.”
USA Today paints a grim picture of near-total destruction. There are reports of “widespread power outages, flash flood, landslides and scores of buildings that were torn apart.” The airport terminal in Tacloban, reports the paper, was ruined by the storm surge. USA Today adds:
“‘We expect the level of destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan to be extensive and devastating, and sadly we fear that many lives will be lost,’ said Anna Lindenfors, Philippines director of Save the Children.
“‘With this magnitude we know that the destruction is overwhelming,’ said Emma Amores, who is waiting outside Villamor Airbase in Manila, where a C-130 is loading relief supplies and personnel heading to hard-hit Tacloban. ‘From the images we saw on TV, it’s highly likely our houses are gone. We just want to know that the family are all safe.'”
Reuters has put together a video of early images from the Philippines:
As more news comes out of the area, we’re update this post.
Update at 3:55 p.m. ET. Severe Destruction:
It is now almost 5 a.m. in Tacloban City, which means we may start getting some more news as day breaks. Meanwhile, CNN’s Andrew Stevens has made his way to Tacloban and he reports “severe destruction.
He says the entire waterfront was destroyed by a fast-moving storm surge. He said he said bodies floating in the water. And has only now started seeing military helicopters over the city.
“The city is still pretty much cut off,” Stevens reported. “Food and water are running out.
The head of the UN Disaster Coordination Team put it in starker terms.
“The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami,” Sebastian Rhodes Stampa said.
One bright spot CNN’s Stevens said is that many in Tacloban, which has a population of more than 200,000, is that many were told to evacuate.
Update at 9:09 a.m. ET. 138 Dead:
According to the Philippines’ National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, as of a few hours ago, 138 people were reported dead and 4.2 million people were affected.
Update at 8:17 a.m. ET. Relief Efforts Will Be Massive:
Weekend Edition Saturday spoke to Nichola Jones, a spokesperson for the International Red Cross currently in Cebu Island. She said that the Red Cross expects tens of thousands of homes to be damaged and the “scale of the relief efforts will be massive.”
To put it into perspective: Jones said the hurricane pummeled an area with a total population of 3.2 million. What’s more, Bacolod, which was struck by the typhoon was also hit by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake back in October.
“It’s been a very difficult time for people here,” Sebastian Rhodes Stampa said after arriving.