By Eric Baculinao and Alastair Jamieson
MANILA – A major city was in ruins and the hardest-hit parts of the Philippines remained cut off on Saturday, with one Red Cross official estimating that at least 1,200 people were killed by the largest storm ever to make landfall.
Typhoon Haiyan struck the archipelago early Friday and survivors of the storm described towering waves that swept away all but the hardiest shelters.
One resident of the hard-hit central Philippine city of Tacloban said he and others took refuge inside a parked Jeep to protect themselves from the storm, but the vehicle was swept away by a wall of water.
"The water was as high as a coconut tree," 44-year-old Sandy Torotoro, a bicycle taxi driver who lives near the airport with his wife and 8-year-old daughter, told the Associated Press. "I got out of the Jeep and I was swept away by the rampaging water with logs, trees and our house, which was ripped off from its mooring."
"When we were being swept by the water, many people were floating and raising their hands and yelling for help. But what can we do? We also needed to be helped," he said.
Survivors were described as being in desperate need of clean drinking water and food as officials continue to survey the damage.
“We need it now, we needed it 12 hours ago,” Jim Edds of the Weather Channel said in a brief satellite-phone call from Tacloban. “... They need to park a ship off the coast (with supplies).”
Haiyan packed sustained winds of 147 mph, with gusts up to 170 mph, and heavy rains when it made landfall early Friday. By those measurements, Haiyan would be comparable to a strong Category 4 hurricane in the U.S., and nearly in the top category, a 5.