Days after Yolanda’s wrath, looting erupts in Tacloban City
Tacloban City is reduced to vast wasteland after the onslaught of super typhoon “Yolanda.” Video by INQUIRER.net’s Ryan Leagogo
TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines — In only a matter of days after Yolanda’s wrath, this place has become a no man’s land.
Chaos reigned in the economic hub of Eastern Visayas on Days 2 and 3 of the colossal destruction from the “supertyphoon” (international name Haiyan), which cut off the city from the rest of the country with power out and communications virtually impossible.
The scene on the streets downtown looked like it belonged in a horror movie: barefoot residents sifting through trash that remained uncollected, the homeless wandering around, stores pillaged and emptied amid frenzied howls by the looters.
“It’s anarchy,” said Kenneth Uy, owner of the Asia Stars Hotel.
With food and clean water in short supply and without any government presence at all, many residents were driven to desperation.
On Friday morning, crowds swarmed the 578 Emporium convenience store on the main avenue that was being guarded by the businessman owner.
“You cannot come in,” he warned them.
“If you don’t allow us to come in, we will use force,” one man said.
Then the men started counting “1, 2, 3!” The owner gave way.
Before long, a queue had formed in front of the store, and the street was filled with people carrying crates of household supplies, including noodles, bottled water and canned goods.
The looting spread to other places, including fast-food chain branches and shopping centers, among them the Gaisano Central on Justice Romualdez Street, and Robinson’s Place in Marasbaras.
Richard Bilisario, an Air Force man, was surveying the damage when he chanced upon the looting of Robinson’s Place.
He was appalled.
“Under the circumstances, I would say looting for food and water is justifiable. But if you are taking a huge TV on your Pajero, that’s different,” said Bilisario, who survived the 10-meter storm surges that swept his barracks at the Air Force complex overlooking the Leyte Gulf.
He recalled telling one man sarcastically: “Going shopping?”
“The man only smiled. I said ‘go on. Next week this storm will happen again’,” Bilisario said, shaking his head.
The looting of Robinson’s carried on through the afternoon and the evening.
Children lugged plastic bags of rubber shoes and sandals. A group of men sported identical Hello Kitty backpacks, each filled with loot. Two teenagers towed a stroller full of DVD players.
Attempts were also apparently made to break into automatic teller machines.
An upside down burger joint was not spared. A group of men used steel pipe to destroy its locks, while a boy screamed: “Pila! Pila! (line up!)” Soon another band of thieves had formed.
In other stores, some order was at least in place.
On one alley, the owners of a grocery shop sold merchandise, including crackers, bottled water, soft drinks and potato chips, to residents with limits on how much or how many they could purchase.
One of the unlikely customers was Justin Uhd, an American Peace Corps volunteer, who came a day ahead of the typhoon with an 11-man team to pre-position their outreach program. But the troop ended up in the same straits as the victims.
“Now we’re just trying to survive like everybody else,” he said, clutching two bags of crisps.
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