CEBU, Philippines — Three days after one of the most powerful storms ever to buffet the Philippines, the scale of the devastation and the desperation of the survivors were slowly coming into view.
The living told stories of the dead or dying — the people swept away in a torrent of seawater, the corpses strewn among the wreckage. Photos from the hard-hit city of Tacloban showed vast stretches of land swept clean of homes, and reports emerged of people who were desperate for food and water raiding aid convoys and stripping the stores that were left standing.
As Monday dawned, it became increasingly clear that Typhoon Haiyan had ravaged cities, towns and fishing villages when it played a deadly form of hopscotch across the islands of the central Philippines on Friday. By some estimates, at least 10,000 people may have died in Tacloban alone, and with phone service out across stretches of the far-flung archipelago, it was difficult to know if the storm was as deadly in more remote areas.
Barreling across palm-fringed beaches and plowing into frail homes with a force that by some estimates approached that of a tornado, Haiyan delivered a crippling blow to this country's midsection. The culprit increasingly appeared to be a storm surge that was driven by those winds, which were believed to be among the strongest ever recorded in the Philippines, lifting a wall of water onto the land as they struck. By some accounts, the winds reached 190 miles an hour.
"We are seeing a lot of dead throughout the province," said Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr., spokesman for the Philippine armed forces. "I have been in the service for 32 years and I have been involved with a lot of calamities. I don't have words to describe what our ground commanders are seeing in the field."
As aid crews struggled to reach ravaged areas, the storm appeared to lay bare some of the perennial woes of the Philippines. The country's roads and airports, long starved of money by corrupt and incompetent governments, are some of the worst in Southeast Asia and often make traveling long distances a trial. On Monday, clogged with debris from splintered buildings and shattered trees, the roads in the storm's path were worse, slowing rescue teams.
Richard Gordon, the chairman of the Philippines Red Cross, said that a Red Cross aid convoy to Tacloban had to turn back on Sunday after it stopped at a collapsed bridge and was nearly hijacked by a crowd of hungry people. "There is very little food going in, and what food there was, was captured" by the crowd, Mr. Gordon said in a telephone interview on Monday morning.
The storm posed new challenges for President Benigno S. Aquino III, who just two months ago struggled to wrest back a major city in the south from insurgents. Mr. Aquino has won plaudits at home and abroad for his fight against corruption during his three and a half years in office, leading to increased foreign investment and an impressive growth rate. But he must still contend with Muslim separatists in the south and with provinces that have long been the domains of regional strongmen, resistant to government control.
Now add to that list a storm that looks to be one of the country's worst disasters, at a time when emergency funds have been depleted by a series of other calamities, most notably an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 that struck the middle of the country four weeks ago. On Monday, after the reports of widespread raiding of stores and robberies and rising fears of a breakdown of law and order, the government said it was flying more police officers to the region.
Although deadly storms are not unusual in the Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan appears to stand apart, both in the ferocity of its winds, which some described as sounding like a freight train, and in its type of destruction. Most deaths from typhoons in the Philippines are caused by mudslides and rivers flooding from heavy rains.
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