A United Nations team arrived today (9 November) in the city of Tacloban in the Philippines to assess and respond to the damage caused by typhoon Haiyan, which hiy the country yesterday.
The UN Disaster Coordination Team (UNDAC) reported scenes of total devastation where Haiyan first struck, with all roads from the airport to the town blocked and the only means of travelling being by helicopter.
“The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami,” said the head of UNDAC, Sebastian Rhodes Stampa.
“This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumble weed and the streets are strewn with debris.”
The UNDAC team said it is preparing the groundwork for an inter-agency humanitarian assessment, but expressed concern that relief operations will be “extremely difficult” due to the impassable roads.
Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, is one of the strongest storms ever recorded, hitting landfall with sustained winds of 295 kilometres per hour, placing it above the 252 kph threshold for a Category 5 hurricane, the highest category on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.
The Philippines Red Cross today said it has received reports of 1,200 deaths in two areas hit by the typhoon, a drastic increase from the three reported yesterday. The typhoon has passed over the Philippines and is expected to hit Viet Nam later today.
Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines, Julie Hall, said the UN is working “very closely” with the Government and is ready to respond in any way to the tragedy.
“We wish to extend our deepest sympathy to the Government and the people of the Philippines who have been affected by this devastating typhoon which appears to have caused significant damage across a large tract of the Visayas.”
Haiyan is the third major crisis to hit the Philippines in just two months. In October, the Bohol earthquake affected more than 3 million people, triggering landslides engulfing entire homes, ripping apart bridges and tearing down centuries-old churches. Seven cities in three different provinces were initially affected. In September, tens of thousands were forcibly displaced by armed clashes in Zamboanga City in the southern part of the country.