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Grim Details Reveal Brutal Effects Of Philippine Typhoon


The official death toll from Typhoon Haiyan is now around 2,300 and is expected to go higher. Thousands are still missing. Aid continues to come into the Philippines from around the world, but its flow is being hampered poor logistics and the central government is being blamed for not doing more. The town of Tacloban was hit especially hard and as of this morning the situation there is grim. NPR's Anthony Kuhn joined us from Tacloban's city hall.

Good morning.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: It's been nearly a week since the typhoon struck and you've been talking to city officials. What is their biggest concern right now, other than the fact that help is very slow coming?

KUHN: Well, that slowness causes a lot of difficulties among the many things which are time-sensitive, including the hungry residents. The dead need to buried. And I hitched a ride to city hall here from the airport and along the route I saw a lot of body bags lined up on the outskirts of the street and soldiers were picking them up and putting them into trucks.

And of all those dead, you know, maybe only a couple of hundred are buried and almost none of them have been identified. Many of them may later be exhumed for positive identification, but at this point they're having difficulty just collecting them, much less identifying them. So, you know, it's a lack of manpower as with all the other problems here, the difficulty in distributing aid. The city's vehicle fleet was wiped out, everything has to come in from out of the city, and there's no gas here.

And all the staff, the local staff, were also victims of the typhoon and so many of them are unable to help.

MONTAGNE: Well, Anthony, I'm hearing - of course we're hearing a lot of people talking behind you, but also a sound that sounds like a motor sound. What's that there at city hall?

KUHN: Well, city hall in Tacloban is on high ground so it was one of the few places that wasn't too badly affected by the typhoon. However, it's still in pretty dire circumstances. Aside from the city officials trying to direct relief efforts here, we've got a lot of survivors who are seeking help, trying to find loved ones who are missing. We have a lot of journalists who are using the generator here, one of the few places in town you can get any power.

At the same time, the building is not in good shape. Water is pouring through the roof when it rains and there is a very unpleasant smell of dead bodies which comes through the windows here. So even though it's sort of the hub and the center of activities, it's in bad shape.

MONTAGNE: And in terms of aid, the U.S. is stepping up its aid effort to a degree that it says had never been seen before. How much aid is getting to survivors?

KUHN: Well, this morning, when I left the airport, there had been a night of flights coming in. For the first time they have lights on the runway on. So they've got aid coming in around the clock, and I was sitting right next to huge pallets loaded with tarpaulins and food coming from the U.S. and other foreign governments. Foreign aid organizations were setting up tents there, and the Philippine army was coming in to pick the stuff up and distribute it.

But as I said, there's still a huge lack of logistic support and manpower, and so we're hearing from the local government here that most of the citizens have not received any aid and that's after a week of, you know, going without food, shelter, water, etc. The U.S.S. George Washington, an aircraft carrier, which is being deployed from Hong Kong, will not only bring a lot of manpower and supplies but also a great ability to filter drinking water, which will be very important.

But you know, a week into this disaster and still the mood here is very desperate among the survivors.

MONTAGNE: Well, we'll continue to be reporting on this aftermath of this terrible typhoon. NPR's Anthony Kuhn joining us from the town hall of Tacloban in the Philippines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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.