The typhoon-ravaged Philippine islands face a daunting recovery that had barely begun Monday as bloated bodies lay uncollected and uncounted in the streets and survivors pleaded for food, water, and medicine.
The official death toll from Friday’s Typhoon Haiyan is just under 1,000, but some officials fear 10,000 are dead in the city of Tacloban alone. The Red Cross announced it had ordered 10,000 body bags.
The Philippine islands suffer from frequent typhoons, but Haiyan, or Yolanda as it was called locally, was the Big One. It may have been the strongest cyclone to ever make landfall on Earth with winds approaching 200 mph at times. While the government evacuated more than 800,000 people, residents in places like Tacloban weren’t prepared for storm surges higher than 20 feet.
A storm surge resembles the displaced water from a tsunami though it is caused by wind, not earthquake-shifted sea floors. Evacuation centers close to the ocean—provided as wind shelters only—were engulfed in the rising waters of the surge.
Emily Ortega, 21 and about to give birth, was among those who thought she was safe. The evacuation center she fled to was devastated by the storm surge. She had to swim and cling to a post to survive before reaching safety at the airport, where she gave birth to a baby girl named Bea Joy Sagales. The baby appeared in good health, and her arrival drew applause from others in the airport and military medics who assisted in the delivery.
Aid is on its way, but chaos reigns in the meantime. Witnesses report desperate looters ridding shops of food, now-useless appliances, and Christmas trees. Corpses lie in the streets or in pools of water untouched because there’s no way to properly handle them.
“We're afraid that it's going to get dangerous in town because relief goods are trickling in very slow,” said Bobbie Womack, an American missionary and Tacloban resident from Athens, Tenn. Christian missionaries have been go-to sources for news groups on the ground. “I know it's a massive, massive undertaking to try to feed a town of over 150,000 people,” Womack said. “They need to bring in shiploads of food."
Womack's husband, Larry, told The Associated Press he chose to stay at their beachside home only to find the storm surge engulfing it. He survived by climbing onto a beam in the roof that stayed attached to a wall. “The roof was lifting up and the wind was coming through and there were actual waves going over my head,” he said.
Phillip and Rachel Baron with Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) in Manila said the ministry’s staff wasn’t in affected areas during the storm, but student leaders and relatives were. “We also have a Korean campus team in Tacloban who are still missing,” Phillip Baron wrote in an email. Campus Crusade was set to begin assessing plans for relief Monday.
Filipino soldiers were distributing food and water to survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, Philippines, on Monday, and assessment teams from the United Nations and other international agencies were seen for the first time. The U.S. military dispatched food, water, generators, and a contingent of Marines to the city, the first outside help in what will swell into a major international relief mission.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he assured Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario “of our full commitment to providing all necessary assistance,” and Australia, Japan, and Taiwan have joined in mobilizing either funds or supplies.
Here is a summary of other relief efforts underway:
- Operation Blessing Foundation Philippines, the local outreach of Virginia Beach-based Operation Blessing International, has at least 40 staff members now in Tacloban alone. They brought chlorine generators to provide hundreds of thousands of gallons of clean water. The charity’s medical staff is preparing to make rounds while others are using their hands to clear roads for further relief.
- World Vision is launching one of its largest-ever Filipino relief efforts. Its first shipment of supplies, including thousands of blankets and tarps, was expected to arrive Monday. The organization’s goal is to help at least 400,000 people.
- The Salvation Army has more than 75 offices in the Philippines and described itself as “well prepared to service the immediate and long-term needs of those impacted by this disaster,” including “emotional and spiritual counseling.”
- Tearfund states it is working to provide local churches with the supplies and prayer, and local pastors are working to reach more remote villages. Tearfund reported local pastors and volunteers expect to spend days on motorbikes to reach remote, cut-off areas.
- Samaritan’s Purse is working with local Christians to deliver community water filters, protective tarps, blankets, hygiene kits, and emergency family food packets. “We’ll be there not only to provide survivors with physical aid, but also to share God’s love and bring hope to their communities,” Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham said.
- World Relief said it is collaborating with partners closer to the Philippines to distribute food, hygiene kits, cooking utensils, and materials for temporary shelter.
- The Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board said it hopes to sent a team to Tacloban, but it does not have the resources to access the nearly cut-off city for now. IMB representative Mark Moses met with national leaders on the island of Panay, offering funds for food and clean water for now as further plans develop.