TYPHOON Haiyan killed more than 1,000 people when it tore through the Philippines, hammering the central city of Tacloban.
The western Pacific nation’s six main islands were ravaged by winds gusting to 186mph and averaging 147mph when Haiyan reached landfall on Friday, wiping away buildings and levelling coastal homes, which were inundated by a 50ft tidal surge.
Interior minister Max Roxas said it was too early to know exactly how many people had died in the storm, which is now heading towards Vietnam.
The airport in Tacloban, a city of 200,000 residents on the eastern island of Leyte, about 360 miles south-east of the Philippine capital, Manila, looked like a muddy wasteland of debris yesterday, with crumpled tin roofs and upturned cars. All of the glass windows of the airport tower were shattered in the typhoon and lay as a stark reminder of the tragedy as air force helicopters flew in and out at the start of rescue operations.
The Philippine Red Cross and its partners were preparing for a major relief effort “because of the magnitude of the disaster,” the agency’s chairman, Richard Gordon, said. The Philippines encompasses more than 7,000 islands with a population of more than 93 million.
Roxas said: “The devastation is, I don’t have the words for it. It’s really horrific. It’s a great human tragedy.”
One Tacloban resident said he and others had taken refuge inside a parked jeep to protect themselves from the storm, but the vehicle was swept away by a surging wall of water. The water was as high as a coconut tree,” said Sandy Torotoro, 44, a trishaw driver who lives near the airport with his wife and eight-year-old daughter.
“I got out of the jeep and I was swept away by the rampaging water with logs, trees and our house, which was ripped off from its mooring.”
“When we were being swept by the water, many people were floating and raising their hands and yelling for help. But what can we do? We also needed to be helped.”
Some residents yesterday returned to their homes, or the site of their former homes, hoping to rebuild their shattered homes and lives.
Throughout the day people were to be seen weeping while retrieving bodies of loved ones inside buildings and from streets littered with wreckage.
About four million people were affected by the typhoon, the Philippine Red Cross said, with around 350,000 of these forced to leave their homes.
Secretary general Gwen Pang said: “All systems, all vestiges of modern living – communications, power, water – all are down.”
Haiyan was forecast to hit central Vietnam’s coast today making its way to the northern part of the country before weakening to a tropical storm.