A state of national calamity has been declared in the Philippines in the hopes of freeing money and speeding aid to the devastated country. Philippine President Benigno Aquino stated the worst hit provinces, Leyte and Samar, have suffered insurmountable destruction and loss of life from Typhoon Haiyan.
The latest casualty counts estimate up to 10,000 are dead and thousands are injured from the devastating Super Typhoon that left the Philippines crippled. Survivors wait anxiously for much needed aid to arrive, government officials’ fear that the lack of supplies could result in more casualties.
Food, water and medical supplies, desperately needed in the most devastated areas like Tacloban, cannot reach the survivors due to blocked roads and damaged airstrips. While volunteers arrive everyday to help with compiling bag of supplies for victims of the typhoon, the inability to get the supplies to the survivors is proving to be challenging.
Floodwaters, high winds, felled trees and blowing debris have destroyed homes and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Over nine million peoples are feeling the effects of the storm. Typhoon Haiyan, hit the coastal towns of Leyte and Samar on Friday, shocking residents by its tremendous power. The Super Typhoon then headed west, ravaging six Philippine Islands leaving Filipinos without food, water, electricity, fuel and medical supplies.
Guiuan of the Samar province, population 40,000, has been wiped out. Basey of the Samar province reported casualties of three hundred people. Tacloban of the Leyte province was destroyed as a tremendous storm surge demolished the city. Corpses lay rotting on the sides of roads as survivors crowd the local airport trying to get out. Northern Cebu province reports towns had suffered at much as 80-90 percent destruction and Baco of the Oriental Mindoro province is 80 percent underwater.
The United States has sent in Marines to help distribute food to those in need, but the head of the Philistine Red Cross, Richard Gordon, was reported as saying, it’s “absolute bedlam.”
As the casualty count rises, the question of what to do with the bodies must be addressed. Multitudes of disfigured bodies are a gruesome addition to the devastation left by the typhoon. Bloated bodies, some covered in sheets others left open to the elements lay alongside the blackened bodies of pigs, cows and dogs, putrefying in the tropical heat and unforgiving sun. Public health concerns regarding the unburied corpses have put the proper disposal of the bodies at the top of the U.N. response teams’ priority list.
Mass graves have been dug where bodies can be laid to rest. Schools, church and meeting halls have been transformed into mortuaries where people can go to find a loved one. Identification of the bodies is quickly made then the bodies are loaded into construction trucks and moved to mass graves for burial.
Typhoon Haiyan was an unprecedented storm. Thousands were evacuated to churches, schools and government buildings but the storm proved to powerful for the buildings to withstand, leaving the evacuees without shelter. The super typhoon had sustained winds of 147 mph with gusts reaching 275 mph and waves climbing to 45 feet high and rainfall of up to 15.75 inches were reported.
If the death toll of 10,000 or more is accurate, Typhoon Haiyan will be the deadliest storm in Philippine history.
By Deborah Baran