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Typhoon Haiyan: Grief and hunger dominate amid survival struggle

CNN News Wire | 11/14/2013, midnight

CEBU, Philippines — In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, nights are often the hardest.

It’s dark. It’s wet. It can be scary. There’s little to do and, for many, even less to eat.

“We don’t have homes. We miss our homes, and we have nothing to eat,” one storm victim taking shelter in a church told CNN, looking into the camera, tearfully appealing to viewers around the world: “We really need help now.”

That help is coming, on military and civilian transports, by air and by sea. But much of it has been piling up at airports.

While relief organizations say they have been able to deliver limited aid to some victims, many CNN crews report seeing little sign of any organized relief effort in the hardest-hit areas.

Blame Haiyan and its unprecedented strength and scope, said UNICEF spokesman Christopher De Bono.

“I don’t think that’s anyone’s fault. I think it’s the geography and the devastation,” he said.

Still, the desperation is increasing, and becoming more serious.

Police warned a CNN crew to turn back Wednesday on the road south of hard-hit Tacloban in the Leyte Province, saying rebels had been shooting at civilians.

“Maybe they are looking for food,” a police commander told CNN.

Throughout the devastation, bodies of victims lie buried in the debris or out in the open.

The government hasn’t counted them all yet, but initial fears that 10,000 may have died have subsided.

By Thursday morning, the official death toll had climbed to 2,357, disaster officials said. The typhoon left 3,853 people injured and 77 people missing, according to the Philippines’ National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The toll is “going to be horrific,” Philippine Interior Minister Mar Roxas said.

“There are still many towns that have not sent in complete reports and out of the 40 towns of Leyte, for example, only 20 have been contacted. So there’s another 20 towns with no communication,” he said.

“It’s going to be a high death toll. I don’t want to go into just throwing out numbers.”

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday that he expected the final number would likely be around 2,000 to 2,500.

When it struck Friday, Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Yolanda, flattened entire towns, layered debris over roads and knocked airports out of commission.

The storm destroyed at least 80,000 homes, according to the latest Philippine government accounting. Although estimates of the number left homeless vary, the Philippine government puts it at more than 582,000.

The storm also shattered families. Mayple Nunal and her husband, Ignacio, lost their two daughters, Gnacy Pearl and Gnacy May — washed away when the storm’s ferocious storm surge ripped through Tacloban.

“The big waves, we were like inside the washing machine,” Mayple Nunal said. “And we were expecting that we would die.”

While Nunal and her husband are safe, receiving treatment in Cebu, United Nations officials have warned of increasing desperation and lawlessness among those left homeless.

On Tuesday, eight people died when a wall collapsed during a stampede at a government warehouse in Leyte province, Philippine National Food Authority administrator Orlan Calayag said Wednesday. Police and security stood by as people stormed the building and took some 100,000 sacks of rice, he said.