The extent of Super Typhoon Haiyan’s destruction isn’t yet known, but survivor stories tell a grim tale of loss as the country searches for survivors and tries to pick up the pieces the powerful storm left behind.
Haiyan carved a massive path in the island country as it moved quickly through on Friday. The official death toll remained in the hundreds, but officials feared 10,000 deaths in Tacloban city alone.
Corpses were seen hanging from trees, scattered along sidewalks, and inside flattened buildings as people raided grocery stores and gas stations to find food and water, reports USA Today. The storm, significantly weakened since hitting the Philippines, made landfall in Vietnam, where hundreds of thousands of people already evacuated.
Authorities are still trying to reach islands they haven’t had communications with since the storm struck on Friday. Relatives frantic for news of their loved ones’ fate crowded into the Villamor Airbase in Manilla to wait for transport planes rescuing people from six of the country’s more than 7,000 islands.
Leyte Island was hit hardest by the storm, notes The Washington Post, and authorities estimate 10,000 people died in Tacloban, mostly from drowning and collapsed buildings. Reports trickled in indicating deaths in other areas of the island too. Samar Island was also hit hard, and provincial disaster office spokesman Leo Dacaynos confirmed 300 deaths.
Reports from other islands indicated dozens, perhaps hundreds more deaths. With communications still knocked out in many areas, it isn’t clear how authorities were able to estimate the number of people killed. It will be days before the full extent of Haiyan’s destruction is known.
Maryann Tayag, a survivor from Tacloban city, recalled flooding up to her nose, and seeing her brother’s head go under during a powerful wave. She, her younger sister and sister-in-law made it to the roof, but her brother and mother didn’t. Maryann described the destruction in Tacloban by likening it to a “World War II city.”
The typhoon survivor added, “The hardest thing is… seeing your mother floating in the flood and you don’t know what to do. You just see there and the only things is have to save yourself. I could not save her because she drowned already.”
If the death toll from Super Typhoon Haiyan does hit 10,000, it will be the deadliest natural catastrophe in the Philippines in recorded history. Governments around the world pledged support in the form of manpower and humanitarian aid.