‘It Looks Like A 50-Mile Wide Tornado’ Hit The Philippines

· Nov. 12, 2013, 12:10 pm

The enormous task continues of getting aid to the millions of people who were in the path of Typhoon Haiyan when it roared into parts of the Philippines.

And the enormous challenge of dealing with the destruction and desperation can be summed up with these words from the top U.S. military commander on the scene:

“It looks like a 50-mile wide tornado” flattened everything in and around the city of Tacloban.

That’s how Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy put it Tuesday on Morning Edition. Kennedy, who has flown over the areas where Haiyan hit, spoke with NPR’s Linda Wertheimer.

The area, “as you would expect with 200 mph winds and a 25-foot tidal surge, looks like a bomb went off,” he said. “Virtually all of the structures, if they were not made out of concrete or steel, are gone.”

The first priority, Kennedy said, is getting shelter to the survivors. Food, water and medical supplies are also on the way. The U.S., U.K., Australia and Japan are among the nations who are rushing help to the scene. Dozens of international relief groups and U.N. agencies are also there.

On Monday, the U.S. State Dept. announced it is “cooperating with the Philippines Typhoon Disaster Relief Fund established by The mGive Foundation, a U.S. nonprofit organization, to coordinate donations via mobile phones to benefit victims of the typhoon.”

Officially, the Filipino government reports, the death toll as of Tuesday morning (in the U.S.) stood at 1,774. Authorities are still warning, however, that it’s likely at least 10,000 people died.

The latest estimate from the government is that about 7 million people were affected by Friday’s massive storm. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has a larger figure: 9.8 million. The U.N. also estimates that at least 660,000 of the affected people were forced to evacuate their homes. As of Tuesday morning, the Filipino government said, there were about 320,000 people being sheltered in evacuation centers.

Related headlines:

— “Concern Grows Over Pace Of Aid To Philippines.” (The New York Times)

— “WHO Rates Typhoon’s Medical Challenges ‘Monumental.’ ” (Shots blog)

— “Why Typhoon Haiyan Caused So Much Damage.” (All Things Considered)

— “Philippine Ex-Pats In Calif. Contribute To Typhoon Relief.” (Morning Edition)

— “Typhoon Haiyan: Before And After The Storm.” (A BBC News photo gallery)

— “6 Hours At Sea In Yolanda’s Fury.” (The Philippine Star, which refers to the typhoon by the name used in the Philippines.)

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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