Scenes of devastation and some relief after Typhoon Haiyan

Posted at 2:18 PM, Nov 11, 2013

TACLOBAN, Philippines (CNN) -- Three days after Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines, food, water and medical supplies were in dangerously short supply. Residents desperate to escape the devastation choked roads, while authorities worked feverishly to find ways to help.

Here's a look at some of the scenes CNN reporters and others have witnessed in the aftermath of the massive storm:

Desperate victims at airport

Magina Fernandez's voice cracks as she comes face to face with her country's president at Tacloban's airport.

Help, she says, hasn't come quickly enough.

"We need to get the word out," she tells him, "because the Philippine government can't do this alone."

Fernandez was among the steady stream of typhoon victims arriving at the airport, searching for food, water and a chance to escape. She tells CNN she is desperate to leave the city.

"Get international help to come here now -- not tomorrow, now," she says. "This is really, really like bad, bad, worse than hell, worse than hell."

Fear spreads

Richard Young wears a green whistle on a plastic strap around his neck.

He's been carrying it since Saturday night when small groups started forming to defend his neighborhood. They stayed up all night, he says, prepared to whistle if they saw any looting.

But whistles aren't the only thing they have, he says. Many also are carrying weapons.

"As long as they don't harm my kids, my family, that's OK," he says. "But once we are threatened, we will shoot. All of us, we are ready."

Already, the Filipino businessman says he's been shocked at the looting he's seen in the city -- not just food, he says, but large appliances like refrigerators and washing machines. Thieves, he says, have already ransacked his shop and others nearby.

"We are very afraid. ... In Tacloban we are almost 98% Catholics, and I can't believe they did this," he says. "Nobody would think it's going to be lawlessness."

'We were just floating'

Tacloban City Councilor Cristina Gonzales-Romualdez and her husband, Mayor Alfred Romualdez were at their home facing the Pacific Ocean when the storm surge came, CNN affiliate ABS-CBN reported Tuesday.

Suddenly, water burst into the home and rose so quickly, the people inside had to punch holes in the ceiling and climb to the second floor to avoid being swept away, Gonzales-Romualdez told the network.

She found herself worried she would be swept out to see.

"We were just floating, I was holding on to my kids," she said.

Bodies everywhere

Three days after the storm hit, bodies remain everywhere, some crudely covered, others exposed to the burning sun, CNN's Paula Hancocks reports. Two bodies, one large and one small, lay under what appeared to be a bus shelter below a sign with the phrase, "I (heart) Tacloban."

Officials tell Hancocks they are focusing on the living, but the bodies pose a health risk to survivors.

"The stench is overpowering," she said.

Safe or not, it's water

Amid a post-apocalyptic landscape, children douse themselves with water and drink from a public well. There's no way to know whether the well has been contaminated, but there's little choice but to drink, one resident says.

"Even though we're not sure that it is clean and safe we still drink from it because we need to survive," the resident says.

Shocked by the devastation

Sebastian Rhodes Stampa knows devastation. The U.N. disaster assessment team chief has been to some of the worst crisis zones in the world.

And the devastation from Typhoon Haiyan simply took his breath away when he set foot in Tacloban.

"I have to say, I was caught by surprise," he said Monday. "Just getting off the military transport and looking at the airport, it almost wasn't there. It was utterly destroyed."

Traveling the region, he's seen huge boats thrown from the sea well up onto shore, and buildings knocked flat by the towering storm surge. In all, he said, these are scenes of "appalling devastation and tragedy."

Checkpoints on crucial road

Police checkpoints appeared Monday on the 9-mile (15-kilomter) road from the airport to Tacloban.

Officers told Hancocks that desperate residents looking for food and water had been jumping onto trucks leaving the airport.

But CNN's Andrew Stevens spent three to four hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the airport road and saw no aid trucks.

"We're still going past dead bodies, we're still going past a shattered landscape," he reported.

The Marine contingent brought trucks to increase the capacity to bring supplies into the city.

Hundreds volunteer to pack aid

At the provincial welfare office in Cebu, hundreds of volunteers pack food and supplies into sturdy white bags.

An employee who gives his name as Richard tells CNN's Anna Coren that students, workers and even tourists from Germany had arrived to help.

"I'm deeply touched," he said.

Hospital without supplies

A hand-drawn sign at the front of St. Paul's Hospital in Tacloban gives a sense of the dire situation there.

"No admissions," it says. "No supplies."

Without electricity at the large private hospital in this storm-ravaged city, workers used headlamps for light as they performed emergency first aid on victims who streamed in with wounds from flying debris.

"We just can't keep going," one doctor says. "There's just no supplies."

Searching for family lost in the storm

Splintered wood beams cover the ground where roads once connected a neighborhood near the coastline.

Here, the storm surge plowed down homes, leaving behind mounds of rubble as far as the eye can see.

Authorities pleaded with residents in the coastal area to evacuate as the storm approached. It's unclear how many did, and how many may be missing.

Amid the chaos, one man says he is searching for his father, brothers and uncles under the rubble.

"We all tried to leave, but it was too late," he says. "I got separated when the waters started rising. I don't know what happened to them."

Devastation for miles

From the air, the damage to Tacloban is striking.

Forests of palm trees were mowed down on hills surrounding the city.

Inside the city, the damage is catastrophic.

The storm surge shoved massive freight ships ashore.

Many buildings were flattened. Those that weren't had large chunks ripped away by ferocious waters and winds from the storm.

William Hotchkiss, general director of the Philippines' Civil Aviation Authority, says he's never seen anything like it in decades of flying over the country after storms.

He says he fears his country faces more disasters like this in the future.

"The biggest challenge," he says, "is to sort of come up with structures that will take into consideration what they call 'the new normal' -- storms that are maybe as destructive as this one."

CNN's David Simpson, Tim Schwarz, Brad Olsen, Chandrika Narayan and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

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