Unimaginable tragedy revealed as true extent of Philippines disaster emerges


  By Angela Haggerty
More than 10,000 people are feared dead and nine million affected following the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded.
The provinces of Leyte and Samar are said to be the worst affected, while the city of Tacloban has been devastated.  Thousands of people are struggling to find food, shelter and clean drinking water amid the destruction which swept through six Philippine islands after the storm made landfall on Friday.

The situation has been described as “absolute bedlam” by the head of the Philippine Red Cross, Richard Gordon, while humanitarian director for Oxfam, Jane Cocking, said that entire parts of the coastline “just disappeared”.

The UN has estimated that around 660,000 people have been displaced, but in some affected areas rescue workers and journalists are struggling to get access and a full picture of the damage and cost to life has yet to emerge.

So far, the worst-hit areas are said to be the easterly town of Guiuan in the Samar province, which is said to have been largely destroyed, and the city of Baco in the Oriental Mindoro province, which the UN said was 80 per cent under water.  Pictures of the devastation have shown areas reduced to rubble by the combination of powerful winds and storm surges, and the typhoon is said to be of the strongest to ever make landfall.

Tacloban in the Leyte province is reported to have been flattened with many dead, and in the town of Basey in Samar, 300 people have been confirmed dead.  In many places there are reports of corpses lying in open areas while in some parts bodies are being buried in mass graves.

The intense storm, referred to locally as “Yolanda”, brought winds of around 147mph with gusts reaching 170mph.  Waves in some areas reached as high as 15m and some parts of the Philippines saw up to 15.75 inches of rain fall.

At the UN’s climate talks in Poland, Philippine envoy Naderev Sano fought back tears as he blamed global warming for the unprecedented storm.  He said at the event:  “We can fix this.  We can stop this madness, right now, right here.”

Responding to the disaster, Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth’s policy and campaigns director, issued a stark warning as scientists said such vicious storms may become more common: “Our thoughts are with people in the Philippines struggling to deal with the aftermath of this devastating typhoon and all those involved in the rescue operation,” he said.  “This catastrophe must serve as an urgent wake-up call to international negotiators attending crucial climate talks in Poland.

“There is broad scientific agreement that communities across the world will be hit with storms of greater intensity as the planet warms.  The UK Government’s recent back-tracking on climate action is reprehensible – David Cameron must make the decarbonisation of our economy a priority.”

He added: “Britain and other industrialised nations must take their heads out of the sand and show real leadership to tackle this global emergency.”

International aid is being mobilised to provide emergency assistance in the Philippines with a number of countries pledging both financial and practical help.  The US has provided military aircraft and ships to get aid to the area while the UK is reported to have pledged £10m. 

Filippino authorities are said to be struggling to deliver aid and relief to survivors and there are fears that any remaining food and supplies will soon run out.

Anyone wishing to donate to the disaster appeal can do so by going here.