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Dwindling supplies add to despair and uncertainty in the Philippines

November 13, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

GWEN IFILL: Six days of misery and desperation bred anarchy today in the Philippines, where the typhoon death toll rose again to more than 2,300. Survivors looted whole warehouses and even dug up water pipes around Tacloban on hard-hit Leyte island.

We begin our coverage with John Irvine of Independent Television News. He spent the day on the island’s easternmost tip.

JOHN IRVINE: It’s the last place outsiders have reached, the town of Guiuan, the eastern edge of this country, where the Philippines meet the Pacific.

We headed into what’s left. The soldier with us was a guide, not a guard. The people here could not have been more welcoming as they showed us the horrendous destruction.

Guiuan’s location, normally a blessing, was on Friday a terrible curse. There’s nothing to the east of this town other than thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean, and it was from there that the typhoon came. The most powerful storm ever recorded by man first encountered mankind right here and dealt a terrible blow.

Several people were killed here in a sports center designated as a shelter, a refuge that became a death trap as the typhoon blew the roof in. The monster storm killed at least 85 people. And the survivors still can’t quite believe that they lived through it.

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Vincent, what was it like?

MAN: It was like — it was like — I don’t know. It was like tsunami and earthquake at the same time. It shook all our walls. It took all our roof. It took everything out. We — we were all wet. We were — some were dead because of the walls — walls crumbled down. I thought I was never going to see the morning. I thought I was really not going to make it.

JOHN IRVINE: The U.S. Marines came here to carry out an assessment of need, and their conclusion can only have been the same as ours: Send help, fast.

GWEN IFILL: Our second report comes from John Sparks, also of Independent Television News. He spent the day in Ormoc, where things seem calmer, despite the need for outside aid.

JOHN SPARKS: The city of Ormoc has been devastated. But the people who live here have one thing going for them: water, clean, fresh water. A number of public pumps are still working. And that’s something to smile about.

How are you doing today?

MAN (through interpreter): We’re OK. We have got no food. No electricity. But you know what? We’re still happy.

JOHN SPARKS: This community was torn apart by the typhoon and many here are hungry.

But there’s no sign of panic or looting that’s afflicted other cities in the region. Outside Ormoc’s main hotel, one of a small number of spots with a generator, people came to charge their phones and share stories of survival.

This video was shot on a mobile by a 20-year-old called Anak Casilias just before the store removed the second floor of his house. He said he was terrified. We also met Rowena Donaire on the queue for a socket. She’s a single mother of two, and pregnant, and she’s now homeless.

ROWENA DONAIRE, survivor (through interpreter): Everything was destroyed. The only thing I could do was watch it happen.

JOHN SPARKS: Ms. Donaire took these pictures from her neighbor’s house. She told us the storm had left her with nothing.

ROWENA DONAIRE (through interpreter): We have nowhere to live. There’s no food, and I really need help. Please, send us food. I’m appealing to you.

JOHN SPARKS: Later, we headed towards the destructive epicenter of this storm, the city of Tacloban. It’s not an easy drive, however, the highway a fearsome obstacle course of debris and downed power lines.

We pulled off the highway in a town called Abrero, which has really been wiped out by the storm. And we’re told that there are more than 1,000 local people now living in the elementary school, so we’re going to go and see how they’re doing.


The school is now home to half of the community’s population, and there’s certainly no space for lessons here. We went to meet the new occupants of the grade five classroom. And I asked one woman how many people lived inside.

MARY-JANE PETUTAS, survivor: We have six families from inside.

JOHN SPARKS: Six families inside the classroom?


JOHN SPARKS: Well, there can’t be much space.

“Well, we have room to stand,” said Mrs. Petutas.

How long do you think you’re going to be here?

MARY-JANE PETUTAS: Oh, we’re going to stay here maybe almost four months. Oh, we don’t know exactly.

JOHN SPARKS: And there is great uncertainty on the road to Tacloban. People in these devastated communities told us they were hungry and thirsty, and they told us they have been overlooked as the government tends to other things.

DELIA CAYOSA, survivor (through interpreter): The relief convoys just pass us by. And they don’t stop. There’s nothing to do but look at them. I guess I can’t get mad about it.

JOHN SPARKS: We reached Tacloban shortly before nightfall, a city of twisted steel and shattered glass, a city of death. The smell of decomposing bodies lingers everywhere. The military were out in force after looting and mob violence, but people here have other concerns.

RAUL ABLAY, survivor: The biggest problem here is that there is no food, no medicine. Water is very hard to come by. There is just only one source of water, and that is there at the city hall, and definitely no food.

JOHN SPARKS: Unlike the public pumps of Ormoc, this is the only place to find water in Tacloban, a solitary filter station. There’s not enough to go around, and it is fueling a state of desperation here.