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Disaster in Tacloban, Philippines: Chasers document “ghastly” scene from typhoon

Debris litter a damaged airport after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 9, 2013.  REUTERS/Erik De Castro

More than 1,000 people are feared dead in the city of Tacloban in the central Philippines in the wake of a devastating storm surge and destructive winds from super typhoon Haiyan.

A team of three storm chasers, Josh Morgerman, James Reynolds, and Mark Thomas , under the moniker “iCyclone”, rode out the violent storm in Tacloban.  Describing the situation there as “desperate”, the team relayed horrifying accounts of the scene via social media earlier today (after being cutoff from communications for more than 24 hours).

Morgerman posted this harrowing report on Facebook:

First off, Tacloban City is devastated. The city is a horrid landscape of smashed buildings and completely defoliated trees, with widespread looting and unclaimed bodies decaying in the open air. The typhoon moved fast and didn’t last long– only a few hours– but it struck the city with absolutely terrifying ferocity. At the height of the storm, as the wind rose to a scream, as windows exploded and as our solid-concrete downtown hotel trembled from the impact of flying debris, as pictures blew off the walls and as children became hysterical, a tremendous storm surge swept the entire downtown. Waterfront blocks were reduced to heaps of rubble. In our hotel, trapped first-floor guests smashed the windows of their rooms to keep from drowning and screamed for help, and we had to drop our cameras and pull them out on mattresses and physically carry the elderly and disabled to the second floor. Mark’s leg was ripped open by a piece of debris and he’ll require surgery. The city has no communication with the outside world. The hospitals are overflowing with the critically injured. The surrounding communities are mowed down. After a bleak night in a hot, pitch-black, trashed hotel, James, Mark, and I managed to get out of the city on a military chopper and get to Cebu via a C-130– sitting next to corpses in body bags. Meteorologically, Super Typhoon HAIYAN was fascinating; from a human-interest standpoint, it was utterly ghastly. It’s been difficult to process.

The leg injury (“Mark”) Thomas sustained from storm debris is shown in the Tweet below.

Here is some distressing video shot by the iCyclone team during the storm and posted to YouTube (caution, graphic content):

The northern eyewall of super typhoon Haiyan, likely the strongest to make landfall on record, passed directly over Tacloban. This placed the city of over 200,000 people directly in the path of typhoon’s strongest winds and highest storm surge.


Link: Super typhoon Haiyan: One of world’s most powerful storms in history from space

Below is a video of the wreckage on streets of Tacloban today (Saturday), also from the iCyclone team. “It was like a tornado just passed us,” says an eyewitness. “And the tornado lasted for four hours”:

For continued reports from the ICyclone team, follow @typhoonfury on Twitter and iCyclone on Facebook.

Video:Expert: Typhoon Haiyan ‘off the scale’

Interactive tracking map (click on layers for different information overlays)


Okinawa takes vicious blow from Typhoon Danas (ICyclone VIDEO)

Hurricane chasing: While most run from the storm, iCyclone seeks out its core

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.
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Jason Samenow · November 8, 2013

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