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Devastation, Looting In The Philippines After Deadly Typhoon


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


I'm Audie Cornish. And we begin this hour in the Philippines, where thousands of people are feared dead in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. In the city of Tacloban, utter devastation; cars tossed, the bodies of the dead yet to be buried and survivors clamoring for food and water.

SIEGEL: Flying over this city Monday, U.S. Marine Brigadier General Paul Kennedy said this: I don't believe there is a single structure that is not destroyed or severely damaged in some way. Every single building, every single house. The BBC's John Donnison is in Tacloban, and here's just part of a story that he filed from the airport there.


JOHN DONNISON: Well, I've come over now to what was the airport's control tower. It's been turned into really a makeshift hospital and people here in agony. A teenage girl having stitches put into a badly damaged leg. There's no anesthetic and a man in his 30s alongside her with a huge bloody gash in his left foot. I'm going to step inside to the room next to me. This had become, well, a maternity ward. A woman here, she's just given birth to a little girl 40 minutes ago. The woman next to her in labor right now.

CORNISH: Also, at that airport, CNN spoke with Magina Fernandez who lost her home and business in the typhoon. Like many there, Fernandez was searching for food, water and a way out.

MAGINA FERNANDEZ: Get international help to come here now. Now, not tomorrow, now. This is really, really like bad, bad - worse than hell, worse than hell.

CORNISH: NPR's Anthony Kuhn is in Manila and he says Tacloban is just one of many cities, towns and villages in the Philippines that saw the worst of the storm.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: The hardest hit is its eastern seaboard. The region is called the Visayas and Typhoon Haiyan basically cut a swath from east to west across the middle of this area and the island of Leyte where the city of Tacloban is located is very hard hit. And while most of the attention is been focusing on Tacloban and the east coast, the west coast has been very hard hit, too.

And some areas are just so remote and the infrastructure is so poor that it's just not known how serious the damage is there, how many people were killed and that's why people are expecting the death toll to go up quite a bit from where it is now.

CORNISH: Given what you've said about the damage, what's known now about the needs of the people and about what kind of aid is able to get to these areas?

KUHN: Well, aid is beginning to come in. You know, a couple dozen countries have volunteered aid and are in the process of trying to get it there. The needs are just overwhelming. There's really nothing for these people there; no food, no water, no power. The difficulty of getting it there is, you know, the airport is essentially wiped out and it's very hard. No commercial flights are going in, mostly only military flights are getting in.

And, you know, there is just, from what we understand, desperation in Leyte province and there has been serious looting and there has been attacking of aid convoys. People are trying desperately to get in and off the island. It's very difficult.

CORNISH: So in terms of the kind of aid that's getting into these areas, do you know what the U.S. effort is so far?

KUHN: Yes. The U.S. Marines and Navy have organized cargo planes to bring in generators and drinking water and trucks, and they're flying straight into the airport at Tacloban. So there's a major effort by the U. S. military to help out there in Leyte province.

CORNISH: There are typhoons that go through the Philippines every year, but do you have a sense of how prepared the country really was for something of this magnitude?

KUHN: Well, it's true that they get something like 20 typhoons a year, but I think it's pretty clear now that they've never experienced something of this magnitude. And given the widespread poverty and poor infrastructure, they clearly were not prepared to cope with something on this scale.

CORNISH: Anthony, can you talk more about what the government reaction has been so far?

KUHN: Well, when the looting broke out, it was very severe. People were breaking into malls, into stores, looting whatever they could find. There were actually calls for martial law to be imposed. In the end, President Benigno Aquino III did not impose martial law. He declared a national state of emergency or what he called a national state of calamity, the point of which was to allow aid to speed up the relief effort.

Remember that the country has struggled with insurgencies and separatism in itself, of course, so the security situation in some of those areas is still not great.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Manila. Anthony, thank you.

KUHN: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.
Audie Cornish
Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.