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Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Untold devastation
Philippines struggles to recover from destruction brought by super typhoon

From areas across the central Philippines, images showed scenes of almost apocalyptic destruction. Survivors begged for help and searched desperately for food, water and medicine as relief workers struggled to help victims of a super typhoon that killed thousands of people. In some cases, entire towns were literally washed away. This is the scale of the devastation brought to the Philippines by Super Typhoon Haiyan.

One of the most powerful storms ever recorded, and possibly the strongest ever to make landfall, Haiyan tore through the central islands of the Philippines on Nov. 8. The super typhoon first lashed the central islands of Leyte and Samar before hitting the northern tip of Cebu province and Boracay Island. The storm leveled Basey, a seaside town in Samar province. About 10 kilometers away, across a bay in the city of Tacloban in Leyte province, thousands of people were killed, according to officials.

Many people were also missing in Basey, said the governor of Samar province. "The situation is bad; the devastation has been significant. In some cases, the devastation has been total," Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras said.

Tacloban was flattened by surging waves and powerful winds of up to 375 kilometers per hour. Residents' terrifying accounts of being swept away by a wall of water revealed a city that had been hopelessly unprepared for a storm of Haiyan's almost unprecedented power. Most of the damage and deaths were caused by huge waves that inundated towns, washed ships ashore and swept away coastal villages in scenes reminiscent of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Jean Mae Amande, 22, said she was washed several kilometers from her home by the sudden surge of water. The current ripped her out to sea before pushing her back to shore, where she was able to cling on to a tree and grab a rope thrown from a boat. "It's a miracle that the boat was there," Amande said.

Haiyan is estimated to have destroyed about 70 to 80 percent of structures in its path. International aid agencies said relief resources in the Philippines were already stretched thin after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in central Bohol province last month. In the aftermath of the storm, Tacloban's administration appeared to be in disarray as city and hospital workers focused on saving their own families. Rescue operations were further hampered because roads, airports and bridges were destroyed.

Global aid groups have launched a multimillion-U.S. dollar relief campaign in response to the tragedy, which is likely the most devastating in the history of the Philippines. Taiwan has also donated US$200,000 (approximately NT$5.9 million) in aid. However, due to the immense scale of the destruction, it will likely take many affected communities years to recover, if they are able to recover at all.

In the aftermath of the storm, Awelina Hadloc, 28, the owner of a convenience store in Tacloban, searched for instant noodles at a warehouse that was almost bare because of looting. She said her store had been washed away. "It is so difficult. It is like we are starting over again," said Hadloc.

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