TACLOBAN, Philippines – Thousands of typhoon survivors swarmed the airport here early today seeking a flight out, but only a few hundred made it, leaving behind a shattered, rain-lashed city short of food and water and littered with countless bodies.
Four days after Typhoon Haiyan struck the eastern Philippines, only a trickle of assistance has made to affected communities. Authorities estimated the storm killed 10,000 or more across a vast swath of the country. Millions are without shelter or food.
Tacloban, a city of about 220,000 people on Leyte island, bore the full force of the winds and the tsunami-like storm surges. Most of the city is in ruins, a tangled mess of destroyed houses, cars and trees. Malls, garages and shops have all been stripped of food and water by hungry residents.
Just after dawn, two Philippine Air Force C-130s arrived at its destroyed airport along with several commercial and private flights. More than 3,000 people who camped out at the building surged onto the tarmac past a broken iron fence to get on the aircraft. Just a dozen soldiers and several police held them back. Mothers raised their babies high above their heads in the rain, in hopes of being prioritized. One lady in her 30s lay on a stretcher, shaking uncontrollably. Only a small number managed to board.
I was pleading with the soldiers. I was kneeling and begging because I have diabetes, said Helen Cordial, whose house was destroyed in the storm. Do they want me to die in this airport? They are stone-hearted.
Most residents spent Monday night under pouring rain wherever they could – in the ruins of destroyed houses, in the open along roadsides and shredded trees. Some slept under tents brought in by the government or relief groups.
The aircraft carrier George Washington was expected to arrive off the coast in about two days, according to the Pentagon.
I don’t believe there is a single structure that is not destroyed or severely damaged in some way – every single building, every single house, U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy said after taking a helicopter flight over Tacloban on Monday.
Authorities said at least 9.7 million people in 41 provinces were affected by the typhoon, known as Haiyan elsewhere in Asia but called Yolanda in the Philippines.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III declared a state of national calamity, allowing the central government to release emergency funds quicker and impose price controls on staple goods.