Agony flows from unwatched threat: a wall of water

By Todd Pitman

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 13 2013 12:00 a.m. MST

There have been no major food distributions. The city's main hospital has been gutted. Medicines are running out. Police can be seen chasing scavengers through the streets.

International humanitarian organizations have yet to arrive. With no tents, people are sleeping in destroyed homes. One family took shelter in the shade of a giant uprooted tree, and cooked under a ripped gray rooftop held down with a broken basketball pole.

And some people are even farther away from help. On Tuesday, military helicopters flew 15 minutes from Tacloban to the wasteland of a town called Tanawan, past a lake with bodies still floating in it and over bridges that had collapsed.

Amid the ruins, desperate residents frantically waved their arms. Many had scrawled desperate messages in the ruins: "HELP! FOOD. WATER." Some messages appeared to be in chalk. One cry for help was spelled out in white clothing.

Today, American and Filipino C-130 cargo aircraft roar constantly at the Tacloban airport. Each plane can only take out around 150 people, and every flight is a disappointment to hundreds of residents left behind on the tarmac.

Gennette and Eflide have made it to Cebu. Burke and his kids flew to Manila.

Alexa and her mother walked two hours to the ravaged airport terminal in hopes of leaving. Victor asked them to leave, so he could worry about guarding the house instead of feeding them.

They were near the front of the flight line on Tuesday. But after a C-130 landed, the crowd surged to try to get to the plane. The crush of people was so intense that a 7-year-old girl passed out. Alexa and Linda could not endure it and stepped away.

They sat on a curb, under an umbrella. Alexa was in tears. Their destroyed city lay behind them, an apocalyptic graveyard marked with disfigured trees and ruin. They said the government, and the world, had done nothing to help them.

Their new plan: to leave Tacloban by bus and reach relatives in Manila.

Alexa said she will return, eventually.

"Filipinos have a saying: Weeds don't die easily," she said. "When it's safe, when there is electricity, when it's livable, I'll come back."

AP writers Jim Gomez and Kristen Gelineau in Tacloban contributed to this report.

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