After Typhoon Tore Through, People 'Were Left On Their Own'

Nov 12, 2013
Originally published on November 12, 2013 4:56 pm

The concrete floors and walls shook, the door of the room almost blew off its hinges and he "said a lot prayers," Filipino TV reporter David Santos says as he remembers what it was like to ride out Typhoon Haiyan inside a small hospital in the Philippines town of Guiuan.

Then, when he and other survivors emerged on Friday, the scene was incredible.

"It was total chaos," he told All Things Considered host Audie Cornish on Tuesday. Buildings were flattened. Trees were down everywhere. People were scavenging what they could; looting if they had to.

Law and order, Santos says, was gone. "People were left on their own on how to respond to the situation," he told Audie, "and unfortunately help did not come immediately."

Santos, a reporter for the Philippines' Solar News TV channel, left Guiuan on Saturday for what would normally be a 3- to 4-hour motorcycle trip to the larger city of Tacloban. It took him and his cameraman 16 hours.

"We were crossing over ... so much debris," he says, that travel was painfully slow. On the trip, "we passed through 10 towns. ... The situation in each and every town was the same. It was only then I realized ... the breadth and intensity" of the typhoon.

Much more from Santos' conversation is due on Tuesday's All Things Considered. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.

He has also been on the air at Solar News, describing what he saw. And, Santos is active on both Twitter and Facebook.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish.

With power out and communications down in much of the area where Typhoon Haiyan hit, there have been few firsthand news accounts of the storm.

We reached reporter David Santos. He and his crew work for Solar News, a local television channel in the Philippines. And they were following the storm from Tacloban. On Friday, forecasters predicted that the typhoon would make landfall in the town of Guiuan, so they made the three-hour drive south. That night, they stayed in a guest house, which they were forced to flee. Santos and his crew then took shelter in a local hospital.

DAVID SANTOS: We began feeling the intensity of the typhoon around 4:00 in the morning. And it was despite the building is concrete, the structure, it managed to destroy a huge part of the building. It tore down the walls on the first floor and broke windows. It smashed through many doors. And the good thing that the medical staff and the hospital were so alert to make sure that the patients who were staying there transferred them to rooms that somehow much more safe.

CORNISH: David, in the hospital, where were you? I mean, I don't know how you prepare for something like this, but were you hiding in any you place, or how were you able to stay safe?

SANTOS: We were staying on the second floor, which is in one of the rooms, the opposite side where the wind was smashing through the structure. So we closed the door. We actually had to try to stop the door from opening because the strong wind was really forcing it, smashing it open. We were around six people inside. I was, I can say as a religious person, I said a lot of prayers, so I was really kind of afraid. Personally, I thought I could die because I had a feeling that the hospital could cave in because the floor was actually shaking.

CORNISH: When morning came, can you describe what it looked like outside the hospital after the typhoon had passed?

SANTOS: It was total chaos. Destruction. There were a lot of people running around. I was standing just outside the door of the hospital and suddenly, many people were coming in. Some were really severely wounded, some were unconscious. It's beyond words. And then I just kept my presence of mind. I said, I told my cameraman to just keep on shooting, as well as checking on people, if we need to, we try to help because it was really a difficult situation.

CORNISH: David Santos, you were lucky enough to be at a hospital where there were medical staff. But were there any other kinds of relief operations or rescue crews that you encountered?

SANTOS: I don't think so because Guiuan is kind of remote town. But I get the feeling that there was a breakdown of law and order. When I was asking for local officials to check how are they responding to the situation, I was told by a councilwoman that they were victims themselves and they can only do so much. Apparently people were left on their own on how to respond to the situation.

CORNISH: Now, as you mentioned, you were in the remote community of Guiuan, and then you decided to ride a motorcycle miles back to Tacloban. I don't know if you knew the extent of the damage there but how were you able to get there? And can you describe what that trip was like?

SANTOS: What was normally a three to four hour drive took us 16 hours. We were crossing over a lot of (unintelligible) roads, toppled power lines and then there was so many uprooted coconut trees, and we passed through 10 towns from Guiuan to get to Tacloban but the situation in each of every town was the same. It's only then I realized the damage that this typhoon had cost in this part of the country was really enormous.

CORNISH: Reporter David Santos, he works for Solar News in the Philippines. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

SANTOS: Thank you very much for this opportunity. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.