MEMBERS of a United Nations (UN) disaster assessment coordination unit who visited Tacloban City on Saturday were shocked by the extent of devastation wrought by typhoon Yolanda on the province.
According to Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, head of the team, roads are strewn with debris making them impassable. The only way to get around is by helicopter.
Stampa reported that the level of destruction was unprecedented.
“The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami,” Stampa said. She was referring to the tsunami generated by a magnitude 9 earthquake that hit Indonesia on December 26, 2004, killing more than 230,000 people in 14 countries.
“This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumbleweed and the streets are strewn with debris,” he added.
The UN team arrived to prepare the ground work for an inter-agency humanitarian assessment.
“The roads between the airport and the town are completely blocked and relief operations will be extremely difficult,” Stampa said.
Jeff Masters, the director of meteorology of US-based Weather Underground, said that Samar endured catastrophic winds when the typhoon made landfall in the town of Guiuan. ‘Yolanda’ was packing winds of 190-195 miles per hour when it slammed into the island, making it the strongest cyclone in history to make landfall.
“Wind damage on the south shore of Samar Island in Guiuan must have been catastrophic, perhaps the greatest wind damage any place on Earth has endured from a tropical cyclone in the past century,” Masters said. “I’ve never witnessed a Category 5 storm that made landfall and stayed at Category 5 strength after spending so many hours over land, and there are very few storms that have stayed at category 5 strength for so long.”
Dr. Julie Hall, UN acting Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines, extended her sympathies to the Philippine government, most especially to the typhoon victims in Leyte and Samar.
“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,” Hall said.
The UN in the Philippines and its humanitarian partners also vowed that they will help the government in assessing the damage caused by Yolanda.
“We are working very closely with the government and are ready to respond in any way we can to this tragedy,” Hall said.
“The humanitarian country team and partners are fully prepared to support and assist government in response to this latest typhoon,” she added.
Malacañang gave assurances on Saturday that the government has enough resources to rehabilitate damaged infrastructures in Leyte and other areas.
In a radio interview, Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said the government will help rebuild the province.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas reported to President Benigno Aquino 3rd that damage to property and infrastructure in Leyte is massive.
“We have the Core Shelter Assistance program to help those whose houses were either partially damaged or destroyed,” Valte said.
WITH A REPORT FROM PNA