Tacloban City is reduced to vast wasteland after the onslaught of super typhoon “Yolanda.” Video by INQUIRER.net’s Ryan Leagogo
CEBU CITY, Philippines – Dead bodies were everywhere in the streets of typhoon-ravaged Tacloban City and there was no way to start counting how many they actually were.
And as the city reeled from the shock of the unimagined strength of the typhoon and the storm surge that rose as high as a third-estory building – chaos ensued.
Looting and hooliganism was widespread and law and order broke down just hours after the city was hit by the typhoon.
Law enforcers and local government authorities were nowhere to be found, as they themselves were victims of the wrath of the supertyphoon.
Even the city mayor, Alfred Romualdez, “was holding on to his roof,” and had to be rescued.
All these were reported by phone to President Benigno Aquino III by Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas just minutes after he and Defense Secreatary Voltaire Gazmin landed at the Mactan Airbase in Lapu Lapu City, Cebu following a day-long survey trip to the the ravaged city of Tacloban on board a military C130 carrier plane.
“… Marami ang namatay dahil as we were walking and as we were going from place to place, may dalawa dito, may lima doon, may tatlo dito, parang ganun sir (There were so many who died because as we were walking ang going from place to place, there were two here, about five there, three here.. It was like that, Sir),” Roxas told Aquino.
“Even the mayor who lives in the barangay (village) near the airport was holding on to his roof, ang Mayor ng Tacloban si Alfred. Kami pa ang nag save sa kanya dahil na isolate sila (We were the ones who rescued him since they were isolated),” Roxas added.
Hours after the devastation of the airport, establishments and houses, people were seen looting stores, supermarkets and warehouses, according to Roxas.
He said looters were seen carrying a variety of goods, from food stuff to even a remote-controlled helicopter.
Some ransacked the warehouses of softdrink giant Coca Cola and water bottler Wilkins and justified the looting by saying they were very hungry, he said.
“All systems are down. We have no water, we have no power, we have no communication. This is the first time for us to use the cellphone,” he told reporters.
To control the situation, Roxas said he and Gazmin decided to send an augmentation force into the city since the existing troops were busy clearing roads and bridges of debris, especially the San Juanico Bridge and those going to ports and airport.
In Roxas City around 100 Army troops from Calbayog City and 180 policemen, including the 30 policemen from the Regional Public Safety Battalion in Cebu, were ordered to proceed to and restore order in Tacloban. They were expected to arrive in the city in the early hours of Sunday, he said.
Roxas said they also need to speed up the arrival and distribution of relief goods in order to help restore order.
Roxas said the National Food Authority (NFA) manager in the city had reported that they have 114,000 sacks of rice that, according to Roxas, he had ordered placed in the care of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which in turn would have them repacked into two-kilo packages for immediate distribution.
Roxas and Gazmin, while at the Mactan Airbase, were likewise briefed by Armed Forces of the Philippines Central Command commander Lt. General Roy Deveraturda about the situation in the Visayas, based on an aerial inspection conducted on areas raved by supertyphoon Yolanda.
Deveraturda told Roxas and Gazmin that relief food packages totaling 170,000 and two water purifiers are on their way to Tacloban on board a Navy vessel and was expected to reach the city at around 6 a.m. Sunday.
Another Navy ship would leave Sangley Point in Cavite on Sunday for Tacloban bringing another batch of relief goods and water purifiers, Deveraturda said.
Two smaller aircrafts will also leave Tagbilaran City in Bohol on Sunday for Tacloban bringing 25,000 kilos of relief goods.
Roxas said military helicopters had actually been ferrying relief goods to Tacloban City on Saturday but these goods could not leave the airport area because they have to first clean up the debris that have blocked roads surrounding the airport.
Roxas said that their aerial inspection from the shoreline up to around 500 meters in the residential area, all the dwellings were washed out.
“The entire airport was under water up to roof level. Parang nagiging dagat ang buong airport, ganon kabilis pumasok and about an hour nag-recede naman,” he said.
According to Roxas, disaster preparations were put in place but it appeared that local authorities were not prepared for its magnitude.
Roxas told Aquino he could not give figure as to the fatalities because of poor communication and with many areas still inaccessible.
The President wanted to immediately visit the devastated areas but Roxas advised him to do it on Monday.
Roxas said he would be returning to Tacloban Sunday morning.
Deveraturda meanwhile said that based on initial reports, 16 people were killed in Eastern Samar alone.