Typhoon Haiyan survivors plead for help

• Philippines authorities warn of total devastation in some areas
• Around 10,000 people are feared to have died
• An estimated 4.5 million people have been displaced
• Rescue efforts hampered by damage to roads and airports
• Follow live updates here

Desperate survivors of Friday’s super-typhoon in the Philippines are pleading for help three days after Haiyan struck, as authorities warn of total devastation in the worst-hit areas of Samar, Leyte and northern Cebu provinces.

Around 10,000 people are feared to have died in the weekend’s disaster – with the armed forces in the Philippines reporting a confirmed death toll of 942 as of Monday afternoon. Information is only now trickling out from previously cut-off towns.

“The situation is bad, the devastation has been significant. In some cases the devastation has been total,” secretary to the cabinet, Rene Almendras, told a news conference.

“The only reason why we have no reports of casualties up to now is that communications systems … are down,” reported Colonel John Sanchez of the Armed Forces of the Philippines after posting aerial pictures of the apocalyptic scenes in Guiuan, eastern Samar, where Haiyan first made landfall.

“One hundred percent of the structures either had their roofs blown away or sustained major damage.”

There had been no contact with the town until an ABS-CBN television crew who were there when the typhoon hit reached Tacloban. Their footage showed Haiyan ripping roofs from buildings as it tore through the town. Bodies covered with blankets could be seen on the streets, amid flattened houses and uprooted trees.

“I have no house, I have no clothes. I don’t know how I will restart my life, I am so confused,” an unidentified woman said, crying. “I don’t know what happened to us. We are appealing for help. Whoever has a good heart, I appeal to you please help Guiuan.”

The mayor of Giporlos, further north, rode for eight hours by motorbike to seek help following the “total destruction” of his coastal town. In a video posted on the Rappler social news site, he said at least 95% of the town of 12,000 had been damaged.

The typhoon hit the eastern seaboard of the Philippines on Friday, tearing across its central islands and smashing its way through Tacloban, 580km (360 miles) south-east of Manila, while vast waves swept away coastal villages and drove ships high on to the shore.

An estimated 4.5m people have been displaced, the World Food Programme said. Authorities had evacuated 800,000 people before the typhoon hit – but many died in evacuation centres, which were incapable of withstanding fierce winds gusting at up to 275kph (170mph) and storm surges of up to 6m (20ft).

International aid teams are rushing to the scene, with US marines arriving to assist with search and rescue and deliver emergency supplies at the request of Manila. The World Food Programme is airlifting 44,000 tonnes of high energy biscuits to the disaster zone.

But rescue efforts have struggled to make headway given damage to roads, airports, bridges and harbours, and a tropical depression is also expected to bring heavy rain to the region as early as Tuesday.

A worker for the World Vision charity described her eight-hour walk to Tacloban as an “endless path of misery” in a message posted on Twitter.

President Benigno Aquino III said he was considering declaring a state of emergency or martial law in Tacloban after survivors seized food, water and goods from stores and homes. He has already deployed 300 soldiers and police to restore order.

Residents crowded the airport gates, clamouring for help, gates, Reuters reported.

“Help us, help us. Where is President Aquino? We need water, we are very thirsty,” shouted one woman. “When are you going to get bodies from the streets?”

The UN said officials in Tacloban, which bore the brunt of the storm on Friday, had reported one mass grave of 300-500 bodies. Corpses continued to litter the streets; others lay buried where buildings collapsed around them.

Rupert Ambil of Rappler, who grew up around the storm-destroyed neighbourhoods, wrote on Sunday that he could barely recognise the once-serene city.

“It’s like the city had been bulldozed and I was in a different time and place. I saw devastation. I smelled death. I fear anarchy,” he wrote.

“For now, amid the chaos and grief, it’s every man for himself.”

Leo Dacaynos of the provincial disaster office in Samar told the Associated Press that 300 people were confirmed dead in one town and another 2,000 missing, with other places yet to be reached by rescuers. He pleaded for food and water, adding that power was out and that communication was possible only by radio.

Baco, a city of 35,000 in Oriental Mindoro province, was 80% under water, the UN said, while an aid team from Oxfam reported “utter destruction” in the northern-most tip of Cebu.

Steven Burns, a Manila resident whose wife’s family grew up in Guiuan, said his in-laws had been unable to contact anyone in the town since Friday.

“People were well aware there was a typhoon on the way… they just didn’t comprehend how bad it would be,” he said.

He said that while the government did evacuate when extreme weather was on its way, there were relatively few safe places to evacuate to in this case.

“There are very few structures in these places which would survive such storms, and Guiuan will have got the full hit.”

On Sunday Pope Francis issued a Twitter message urging people to follow him in prayer for victims in the mostly Catholic country, as well as leading tens of thousands of worshippers at the Vatican.

The Philippines is highly vulnerable to natural disasters – it was recovering from last month’s 7.2 magnitude quake in central Bohol province when the typhoon struck – but Haiyan is believed to be the deadliest on record for the country of 96 million people. Around 5,100 died when typhoon Thelma hit the central Philippines in 1991, while 5,791 died in a 1976 earthquake and resulting tsunami.

Thirteen people were killed and dozens hurt during heavy winds and rain in Vietnam, state media reported, although Haiyan had weakened as it reached the coast. It is expected to weaken further before arriving in southern China.

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