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Super Typhoon Haiyan pummels the Philippines leaving severe damage in its wake

November 8, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the Philippines, speed may have saved lives. The massive typhoon that ripped across that country moved at about 25 miles per hour, so fast, it decreased the impact of rain and landslides, which can be a major cause of deaths.

We begin with a report narrated by Angus Walker of Independent Television News.

ANGUS WALKER: With gusts of more than 230 miles an hour, Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines with massive force, houses torn apart. Huge waves crashed into the coast, almost a million people forced to flee from one of the strongest storms ever recorded.

There are reports of flash floods and landslides from many of the islands worst affected, but with power and communications severely disrupted, no one has an entirely confident assessment of the damage so far. At least seven ships have sunk in rough seas. Crew members from a barge forced to abandon their vessel were luckily spotted and rescued.

This is the main operations center of the Philippines Red Cross here in Manila, and they’re working through the night trying to assess the extent of the damage, and one of the worst affected provinces is completely cut off.

Do you think there are villages along the coast which have been completely destroyed?

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RICHARD GORDON, Philippine Red Cross: Yes. I think so. I think there are — there are coastal areas that — you know, it’s just like opening — hopefully, nobody died there.

ANGUS WALKER: Twelve million people were living in the path of this huge typhoon, which measured around 120 miles across. Mass evacuations in the days ahead of the storm making landfall in areas most at risk has undoubtedly saved lives, but the death toll, mercifully, relatively low, is expected to rise.

The Philippines has been battered by more than 20 typhoons this year alone, but no one could have been prepared for such ferocity.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A short time ago, I spoke by telephone with Rosemarie Francisco. She’s Philippines bureau chief for the Reuters news agency.

Rosemarie Francisco, welcome.

So the sun is just coming up there in the Philippines. What is the latest on what you’re hearing about the damage done by this storm?

 ROSEMARIE FRANCISCO, Reuters: From the images, we saw a few hours ago, the first images, in the Central Philippines, we can see that the damage could be very severe.

The images we saw were from the city centers, and major roads in city centers were, like, filled with clutter, debris. So, imagine what it would be like for far-flung areas.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We — we are hearing that the casualty reports may be low at this point because the storm was moving so fast. Are you hearing anything about that?

ROSEMARIE FRANCISCO: Authorities are seeing that, one, communication lines are down, so they’re not able to communicate with people on the ground quite well.

So they don’t know whether — whether there are more, more casualties. But other officials are saying, because they were able to make preemptive evacuation quite early, like even two days before the typhoon hit, that could have also been a factor in the low casualty count. But we will only know for sure today when some of the communication lines are restored. So, today is going to be crucial.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Rosemarie Francisco, with Reuters, reporting from Manila, thank you.

ROSEMARIE FRANCISCO: Thank you, too.