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Typhoon Survivors: Where Is the Help?

Aired November 12, 2013 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Anderson Cooper like from Tacloban airport in the Philippines, where five days after Typhoon Haiyan, desperation for many here has set in.

This is a place where there is little food, where there is little water and there are many, many people in need. Many people are trying to get out of here, out of the airport. There are scenes of people lining up all around me. They have been lining up here all night long. They just wait at the airport. They frankly have nowhere else to go because out there on the other side of the camera, is what remains of Tacloban and it is not a pretty sight. Dead bodies laying out near the wreckage of people's homes, people sleeping out in the streets with little food, little water, and few answers, frankly, about the relief effort.

We're going to try to get answers over the course of the next hour. I just want to bring you up to date on all that we have seen in the last 24 hours.


COOPER (voice-over): It's been five days since super typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines, but still after all that time there is no official death toll, no concerted effort to retrieve the bodies of those who've died.

The cleanup in some badly hit areas has barely started, if it started at all. Everywhere you go, there are pleas for help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything is gone. Our houses, our -- everything. There is nothing to eat. There is nothing to drink.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need more people to help -- to help the current situation.

COOPER: Help is on the way. 250 U.S. service members are on the ground in the Philippines and two more ships are on the way. But right now there simply isn't enough aid and what aid there is isn't getting out to those who need it most.

Day after day, thousands come to Tacloban Airport hoping for a ride out, praying they can escape the devastation, the lack of food and water, the decaying bodies lying on the street. But with 800,000 people displaced, many are without options. While others continue to search for loved ones lost in the storm surge. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Only one is missing is my eldest daughter. I hope she's alive and we're hoping.

COOPER: This woman cries for her mother who is still missing. "I'm still here in Tacloban," she says, "I'm still alive."

Makeshift shelters for those left behind have sprung up all over the area. People sleeping wherever they can, desperate to find a dry, safe spot.

(On camera): People around here just have no place else to go. A lot of them who may have evacuated before the storm are now back in what used to be their homes. There is a makeshift shack somebody has constructed over there. They tried to collect all the things they could salvage but it's not much.

(Voice-over): In many places not much is left but rubble and the sound of pets waiting for owners who may never return.

This makeshift coffin has a piece of rock with the name of a baby whose been placed inside. Marian P. Alcain is her name. She was only 1 year and three months old.

At this hospital in Tacloban, the wounded and sick wait for treatment but the hospital has no electricity and few supplies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are admitting them as much as we can because we cannot refuse them.

COOPER: It's already too late for this young mother cradling her dead child in her arms. "I'm going crazy," she says, "I want to go back home."

Home is not an option for her. It's not an option for many in this broken city.


COOPER: And Nick Paton Walsh joins me now.

Nick, in terms of the relief effort, what are you seeing? Because, I mean, when you go out in these neighborhoods, I haven't seen much of a relief effort.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, every morning you see this wave of planes coming in but they're limited in capacity, what they can do. There's a cosmetic (ph) effort by the Philippine Military chopping down a tree, rearranging some of the trash here. But, you know, we've the scale of destruction. There's quite a monumental challenge ahead.

And the real issue, I think, for many people -- for many people in the next coming days -- kind of level of aid they need. We simply haven't seen food or heavy machinery or any kind of presence there back and turn this place around fast.

COOPER: You spent time recently or last night just kind of outside during the night to see what it was like.

WALSH: Almost like a ghost town. I mean, of course, the night causes much devastation not to be visible but you're still left with people really coming to terms in their quiet confined spaces with the real loss that they've seen around them.

COOPER: Let's take a look.


WALSH (voice-over): Last night some of Tacloban's misery but locals must huddle around what little they have left. The smell of death weighing heavy, so many bodies still unfound. They even hunt for them at night.

A dog has led them to this spot where Juan Chao (ph) has today watched them dig up his son and just now his daughter. As the typhoon picked up, she suddenly stopped answering his worried text messages.

(On camera): This is not her home here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. It's over there. That place there.

WALSH: OK. So the wind carried her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. The flood and the wind.

WALSH (voice-over): Their mother is still buried somewhere here.

(On camera): How will you rebuild yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just by working and look for living.

WALSH (voice-over): The debris, police checkpoints, burning tires, signs the security fierce, chaos mean the aid mission isn't moving yet. People left here turning to the church for physical shelter, not spiritual solace, counting those spared and those lost.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Granddaughter and second daughter and mother.

WALSH (on camera): Have you found the bodies?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My daughter is missing. Not yet. it's almost since November 8th until now. Their bodies gone.

WALSH (voice-over): One repeated complaint, where is their government? It looks like the end of the world because for so many here it was.


COOPER: I want to talk about the relief efforts going on with Ben Hemingway from USAID and Geoff Pinnock, who's from the World Food Program, WFP.

In terms of WFP, what are you doing in terms of distributing food? GEOFFREY PINNOCK, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM EMERGENCY OFFICER: We're working with DSWD, the Department of Social Welfare. We'd started distributing food that was here already in town that we acquired yesterday through the DSWD. They are distributing in the city and in barangays around. That distribution is scaling up today.

COOPER: So when you -- when you distribute it, how do you go about doing that?

PINNOCK: The DSWD is forming family packs at this moment. They're being put on to trucks and taken to different barangays and there they are distributed. From here we expect to scale up to larger scale distributions.

COOPER: When do you hope to sort of actually make a big imprint? I mean -- to make a big impact here?

PINNOCK: The food that was acquired yesterday is a good start. It's about 2,500 metric tons in the city. There is more on the way. We have high energy biscuits coming in. It's going to take a little while to get the high energy biscuits in. But the first ones arrived today. Meanwhile, the 2,500 tons of rice is a good start.

COOPER: What's been the biggest hold up? The most difficult thing? I mean, I know the roads have been impassable in a lot of places.

PINNOCK: Yes. Logistics, transport, every vehicle you see has been affected by the storm. The roads are just starting to open up now and we have trucks coming out from Cebu and down from Manila to support the effort.

COOPER: And how about for USAID? What are you guys up to?

BEN HEMINGWAY, REGIONAL ADVISER, USAID: The USAID, we're working in full support of the government of the Philippines' response efforts so we're prioritizing water, food, hygiene and sanitation, and also bringing in a massive Department of Defense airlift to make sure needed assistance gets to communities as soon as possible.

COOPER: So are you basically getting stuff to the airport and then it's up to local authorities to distribute it or are you also involved in the distribution?

HEMINGWAY: We will be directly distributing to some of the outlying communities with the government of the Philippines. We're also supporting agencies like the World Food Program to rapidly increase their logistical capacity here in the last mile to make sure needed equipment gets out.

COOPER: So when do you hope to see stuff really going out to people?

HEMINGWAY: We've seen things going out to communities already. Yesterday some Marine C-130s landed and we were able to move thing forward to Guiuan which was the hardest hit area on eastern Samar. Today we're bringing in 20,000 shelter kits, hygiene kits, and we'll be brining anything and everything the government of the Philippines asks us to move forward.

COOPER: So what kind of -- what is in a shelter kit? Because that's huge. I mean, you go out there and people have no place to sleep. They are sleeping under, you know, tin -- corrugated tin. They're sleeping outside. What does a shelter kit have?

HEMINGWAY: Immediately they'll be provided with plastic sheeting. So that's key especially with the continued rainfall to keep the water off them. Until we're able to actually fill the logistical pipeline, they'll be using materials that they are able to scavenge to actually build a frame but as you've seen in most of the areas, there is wood, there's nails, some rope. So right now we're mostly concerned with getting that sheeting over their head while the additional resources are brought to bear.

COOPER: How does this compare to other operations you've worked on?

PINNOCK: So far from down here, this is enormous. We have priorities to stabilize at least three major urban populations and then we have move into the coastal areas with urgency, almost immediately.

COOPER: Because when you look around, I mean, everything here is gone.

HEMINGWAY: Yes, sir, this -- although not as widespread as it could have been, the areas that the typhoon did transcend are nearly completely destroyed. Most major infrastructures damages, schools, hospitals, clinics, they're pretty much all gone. So critical, first of all is to restore that last mile, logistic access so we can start moving commodities into these areas.

COOPER: I'm really glad you guys are here. Thank you for your hard work, Ben Hemingway, Geoffrey Pinnock. Appreciate it. Thanks. The World Food Program, the USAID.

When we come back, we're going to talk to a member of the U.S. Air Force to find out what they are doing here on the ground. There's been a big uptick in U.S. involvement here over the last 24 hours. We'll talk to -- we'll talk to him ahead. We'll be right back.



COOPER: This rain is the last thing people here need. It's been raining on and off throughout the day and it just adds to the misery of this place. Just about everywhere you go you find people just searching for their lost loved ones.

There is a man there, down there who's cooking, who pointed us to the body of his wife underneath that sheet. There's another person who's died that's been wrapped up in just some cloths, some sacks and left out.

The smell in this whole area really is very -- is very strong. There -- there is no way to know how many people have died in this area, but you can smell it in the air. It's everywhere.


COOPER: And that's just a few blocks from where I'm standing. You find bodies still here all over the place. There's a few people actually collecting -- there is very little organization in terms of the Philippines' side and that's one of the frustrating things for people here.

They don't -- they're not getting information. They're not getting -- they're not getting food. They're not getting water. And their needs are great. They really have nothing. Everything has been wiped out.

I want to bring in Barbara Starr because we're seeing an increased effort now by the United States here on the ground and also an increased promised effort.

Barbara, I know you've just got off, I believe, the phone with General Kennedy who is frustrated. What are you hearing?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Anderson. And in fact in the next several hours he's headed in your direction, the effort to get that air field up and running. He told me they expect to have nighttime operations beginning this evening your time in Tacloban, that, of course, as you know better than anybody is going to be a huge help.

The next big step, at least two amphibious warships are on the way from Japan. They will bring very specialized capability, they will have track vehicles, think of it as vehicles with like tank treads on them that will be able to move out into this remote areas, go right through the debris if need be and get supplies out to the distribution points in the most hard hit areas.

There will also be more helicopters on board these ships and more ability for water purification. This now puts a total within the next couple days of seven U.S. military ships in the area that will have the ability to deliver aid by air, by land, water purification, and start bringing in supplies. Plus getting the airport open around the clock will significantly increase they hope the number of flights.

But General Kennedy also telling me he's very frustrated right now. That was certainly his view at the moment. He needs a certain type of aid. The world community is responding, as it always does in these situations, but as the U.S. commander on the ground he needs specific help and he says what his priorities are, are nothing fancy. He wants shelters for people. He wants to get people off the streets and into shelters.

More water, more food, more medical help, although he believes the medical facilities in the immediate area are pretty good at this point.

But, Anderson, and this isn't so nice to talk about on TV, sanitation. What General Kennedy was telling me is, you know, there are countries that want to send portable toilets. It's going to take a long time to get enough there and he doesn't need that kind of fancy equipment. He is looking at trying to burn sewage just to get as much done as he possibly can -- Anderson.

COOPER: You know, Barbara, on the medical front, you can maybe just pass this along. OK, I've talked to a lot of people who say that the -- you know, there are three local hospitals. They're not accepting patients anymore. They say they don't have electricity, they don't have supplies.

Right now the patients said the only place they can go is just basically right over there. That's what's used to be a small clinic. It's now over run with patients. I talked to two doctors there. Both of whom say they are overwhelmed. They need more doctors. They said they don't have enough supplies.

And what's really frustrating, they say they don't even have enough water and food at that clinic to deal with all the people they are seeing coming to them. There are people -- an old man died there last night. Three people have given birth there. They are dealing with all manner of injuries. So there are still a lot of needs and that's just here at the airport.

I want to bring in Captain Jon Shamess. Correct?


COOPER: All right. Good. I didn't mess it up. You're here, you're with the Air Force, what is your job here?

SHAMESS: We're some of the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, out Kadena Air Force Base Japan, and I'm here with a squadron combat controllers, para-rescue and (INAUDIBLE). And our primary job is to help the Filipinos reestablish this air field and make sure it's efficient for 24 hours a day.

COOPER: So that's the priority, to get this up and running. This airport 24 hours. How long is that going to take and what does that?

SHAMESS: Well, for example, yesterday we arrived and the lights on the runway weren't working. So we had the ability to set up lights. As of yesterday, the lights are working again but then the next question is, can we do night operations? What we bring to the fight -- or the effort is assist doing 24 hour operations which includes 12 hours a night operations.

COOPER: So you're hoping to -- are you hoping -- I mean, can you put a time frame on when you think you might get it up and running or --

SHAMESS: Tonight. Right now it's operational.


SHAMESS: So we're using RA's. We're using our capabilities to make sure this is running efficiently. Starting tonight (INAUDIBLE) our guy will be controlling aircraft, controlling special operations for (INAUDIBLE), also at Kadena Air Base Japan to bring in more supplies and evacuation refugees.

COOPER: That will be awesome, as you know. Because, I mean, that's a huge thing just getting -- and yesterday with the bad weather, it was hard to get planes in. You also have some medical assessment capabilities.

SHAMESS: Yes. We do have para-rescue workers. Their primary purpose is personnel recovery, disaster response. They can provide aid up to trauma level, basically get them to -- to sustain them to a high level facility. So we can help out the locals with that as well.

COOPER: All right. Well, I appreciate your efforts. Thank you so much. We're glad you're here. Thank you. Captain John Shamess with the U.S. Air Force.

It really is a ramping up of the efforts by the United States here and hopefully once this airport is up and running, within 24 hours, but I got to tell you the scene here at the airport is really desperate. There are right now -- I mean, there are hundreds of people here. If you just look, they are all -- these people are all just waiting -- people just kind of come here to the airport hoping maybe to get on a Philippine Air Force C-130 that will take them somewhere else or they just come here because they have nowhere else to go.

There is at least a roof over their heads but the facilities here, it's over run. It's really -- it is really -- it is a very chaotic situation here. If the airport can get under control, that could be a good base of operations to move forward.

When we come back, I'll show you what I saw when we went out into the neighborhoods just a few hours ago. We'll be right back.


COOPER: And welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper. We're live here in Tacloban, probably the hardest hit area that we know about. There's still a lot of areas we don't know about in southern Philippines.

This is the airport where people just are flocking to. People -- just hundreds of people, thousands of people come here, have been coming here, streaming here for days now and they spend all day here often all night here.

I was here at 2:00 a.m. walking through. There were no lights and people are just sitting. They don't -- they have no place to sleep, but they have nowhere to go. They bring whatever possessions they can. A lot of them are hoping to get on a C-130, hoping the Philippine military will take them to Manila if they are injured, if they have family members that they can be cared for.

But that's not -- there is no guarantees for a lot of people on the lines to get on those C-130s are very long. This is the first time Philippine military personnel are now actually starting to clean up the area around the airport. This is the first time we're actually seeing this. So that is I suppose a sign of progress. But this is five days since the typhoon and this is the first real tangible sign of a cleanup of the airport area that we're seeing as we heard -- just heard from Captain John Shamess from the Air Force. They're hoping -- they are planning, the U.S. military is planning to get this air field up and running -- on a 24-hour basis by tonight.

That would be the first time, that would be a big help in terms of getting relief in here. Then the concern is and the difficulty is getting it from the airport out to some of these areas, even getting it a few blocks, though, would be a huge improvement because as you're about to see, a couple blocks from here, there is just nothing but misery.


COOPER (voice-over): In Tacloban, the misery is beyond meaning.

(On camera): This is your home?


COOPER (voice-over): "The first, the first," she says, "Our house was one of the first to come down."

Juvelyn Tanego (ph) sought shelter from the storm surge in this bus with her husband and six children. She survived, they were swept away.

(On camera): And has anyone come to help you?


COOPER (voice-over): "I really want to see them," she says, "even if it's just their bodies."

She has found the body of her husband and shows us the bodies of three of her children. She's covered the kids as best she can. Now she searches for her three other children. She doesn't believe they survived the storm.

(On camera): Where will you sleep tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, in the street. Anywhere. I don't know where I go.

COOPER (voice-over): In Tacloban, there isn't any place to go.

Juanito Martinez (ph) is living in a makeshift shelter. His wife Gina and daughter are covered with sacks nearby.

"I really want someone to collect their bodies," he says. "I want to know where they're taken so then I can light a candle for them."

Juanito cooks some rice and noodles for his neighbors. One of the men tells us he wants to call his mother in Manila. He's desperate to tell her that he and his daughter survived, though his wife and two other children are dead. We dial her number on our satellite phone.

"They are gone, they are all gone," he says.


COOPER: "I don't know why this happened to me."

You won't find answers here in Tacloban, you'll only find loss. You'll only find misery with so little help, that is just not going away.


COOPER: Just about everybody you meet in neighborhoods -- in the neighborhoods around here seems to have lost somebody or is searching for somebody. I met more and more -- even after shooting that piece we met another woman who is searching for three of her children. She also -- her husband is also dead.

Then we saw a fire department, a local fire department which was picking up bodies, which was one of the few groups that we saw actually removing bodies. But there are a lot of people out there and that's really why there's no accurate count how many people have lost their lives here because there's been no concerted effort to retrieve those who have died. Many of them, they're all still just out there laying where they fell.

I want to bring in an American missionary I talked to just before we went on air by the name of John Wynn. He's an American missionary who lives here in Tacloban who really escaped the storm surge with his wife.

I just want to warn you the audio in this interview when we first started, there was a C-130 coming in so it's a little bit loud, but stick with it. Here's John Wynn.


COOPER (on camera): So, John, explain what happened to you during the storm.

JOHN WYNN, TYPHOON SURVIVOR: The short of it, we were -- we were in our house expecting, of course, strong wind and rain but just a short time after the typhoon started, we watched a couple of trees fall in the yard and then I noticed under the front door this black water began to come in, a rather strong current, and then I looked out the windowsill and by the time I comprehended what I saw the lawn had almost risen to the level of the windowsill that was quite high coming in the door quite fast. And it was that time I realized that we were in some serious trouble.

COOPER: How fast was the water rising?

WYNN: I wish I could rate it. I would say we -- we were on the entertainment ceiling -- I'm sorry, entertainment center. We were in the ceiling I would say in less than -- I'm going to -- of course, I could be wrong but it seemed to me to be about maximum 2 or 3 minutes. Maximum and that's about the level of water in our house was around 8 feet probably.

COOPER: You finally got out of Tacloban. When did you finally leave?

WYNN: We finally left -- we landed here yesterday about 12:30 or so noontime.

COOPER: What do you make of the relief effort that you've been seeing that you were able to see here?

WYNN: Well, I really did not -- the relief effort that I saw was, people doing whatever they could do on their own to get food. Everything has been looted as far as I know and it's not because people are bad people, it's because people need food, they need water. They are trying to take care of their families.

And it seems like at the time when I was there, now it could have changed drastically since I left, but when we were there, every day we had a network of people in our church, every day going out trying to find water, rice, trying to find any type of food, medicines they could find. There was no communication.

It seemed to regular people unless they would go to certain locations like the airport or city hall. They were having a very hard time finding things. I hope that -- my purpose of doing interviews is just tell everybody that will listen that when I left, they needed help and they needed help now. Not in a few days, not in a few hours, they needed it now and they needed a lot of it.

COOPER: That's certainly still the case. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us, John, thank you.

WYNN: Thank you.

COOPER: And certainly still the case at this difficult hour. When we come back, we'll show you the children affected by this storm.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't have home, homes and we have nothing to eat. We really need help now. I hope you are there watching and you see us in TV. We really need the help because our children don't have rice, no milk, no water, no clean water, and they have fevers.


COOPER: The people here in Tacloban have great dignity and deserve more than what they have gotten, frankly, and it's -- it's stunning when you go out into neighborhoods and you talk to people and you find mothers who are all alone searching for their dead children and have had no help and have had no official help, have had nobody other than other neighbors trying to help them find their kids. Paula Hancocks is joining us. You've been here from the beginning. Have you seen a relief effort? I mean, have you seen an impact out there? I mean, we've seen flights coming in and people working hard, but is it getting out there?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is not organized. It's obviously going somewhere, but just a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed. We're five days on and people coming to me talking are saying I want food. I want water. Why the dead bodies --

COOPER: Five days on.

HANCOCKS: Incredible and they have been there for five days and this is where people are trying to live in the rubbles of their home.

COOPER: Family members are living next to their dead children and dead husbands, their dead wives.

HANCOCKS: You look around here. Most people who were here are holding a child or a baby, not only are they concerned about the fact they can't get food and water for their baby, but they are concerned about the fact, security concerns are getting more intense. So they are desperate to get out. It's really is a humanitarian airlift at the moment. It's a massive evacuation, an attempt and of course, the ones that want out are those with small children.

COOPER: And the line to get out, I mean, is -- you can't see it from here. You may be able to see umbrellas behind me. It stretches for hundreds of yards, I'm told. Right now out in the sun. People just line up and they are just there all day long for a hand full of flights out, the chance to get out because that's really the only option because it's not as if they are able to shelter someplace and get food and get water. There is just nothing to be had right now.

HANCOCKS: Exactly. I spoke to one woman moments ago and she said it's a miracle that I survived the typhoon and my baby survived. She literally reached out and grabbed her baby and saved her baby and said am I going to survive this? Am I going to survive the airport?

COOPER: So you've been looking at affected kids.

COOPER: Absolutely. There is one heart warming story, but unfortunately, not all of it is. Let's watch it.


HANCOCKS (voice-over): The 11-month-old Anthony is blissfully unaware how lucky he is to be alive. During the storm, Jenelyn Manocsoc, sat her son on her head to keep him above water level while she held on to the roof rafters.

JENELYN MANOCSOC, TYPHOON SURVIVOR: All I hear is people cry, many people crying, many people say help, help.

HANCOCKS: She lost her husband and many other relatives.

MANOCSOC: No, I don't know where we go. The most important thing, we can survive. It's very traumatic. It's very hard.

HANCOCKS: Thousands are trying to take their children away from the devastation and the worsening security situation. Jovelyn Dy had twin boys three weeks ago. She's too terrified to stay.

JOVELYN DY, TYPHOON SURVIVOR: We wake up and there are some people inside our house, looters and they can harm my children and us as well.

HANCOCKS (on camera): But in the mist of this pain, there was one ray of hope in this makeshift hospital.

(voice-over): A baby girl was born Monday in the most challenging of circumstances. Her mother, Emily Sogales, was brought in by neighbors. Pregnant women are currently evacuated to give birth, but Sogales was too close.

CAPT. ANTONIO TAMAYO, PHILIPPINE AIR FORCE: The baby came out and cried right away. There weren't any problems and there was no bleeding, so it was a perfect delivery in a very imperfect environment.

HANCOCKS: Once the baby was born, the entire hospital applauded, a baby named, Bea Joy, bringing relief in the mist of such intense human suffering.


COOPER: And there have been, I think, three births in that makeshift hospital, which is -- this area is the only -- is the only hospital. You talked to somebody who said that they didn't know what a storm surge was. They didn't know to evacuate it.

HANCOCKS: Yes, this sent a chill for me, it really did. This man said why didn't they call it a tsunami? We know the word tsunami. If the government had mentioned it would have been like a tsunami, we would have evacuated.

COOPER: They didn't know the surge of water would come through, that's what caused so many deaths.

HANCOCKS: Exactly. They assumed it was high tide or a few waves, if the word tsunami was mentioned so many more people would evacuate and be alive today.

COOPER: We'll take a quick break and be joined by correspondents. We'll be back in just a moment.


COOPER: This is one of the few houses that are still standing, pretty solidly built, one of the houses made out of concrete, seems to have survived the storm. But you just get a sense the power of the storm, look, here is a jeep that's been slammed into the house and a track lifted up from somewhere and put on top of the jeep and the smell of rotting -- the smell of decay is everywhere around here.

That's a cow, that's a dead cow and it looks like behind it, there is the body of a person covered in a green cloth. That's not an uncommon site here unfortunately, still five days into this storm. Our Andrew Stevens went out with the mayor of Tacloban, here is what he saw.


ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Tacloban City, they are calling him the ghost. Many people here thought the city's mayor, Alfred Romualdez, had died in the typhoon.

MAYOR ALFRED ROMUALDEZ, TACLOBAN, PHILIPPINES: I was in that building, which is by the beach, and the waves were hitting the roof of that building.

STEVENS: He's taken me to the scene of his miraculous escape. This was the family resort in the hardest hit part of the city right on the edge of the sea. He takes me through the shattered shell, the mayor and 14 others were here when high ends struck.

ROMUALDEZ: Another concrete wall there.

STEVENS: The surge devastated the building, 6-inch-thick concrete walls, were smashed like tissue paper he says.

ROMUALDEZ: Suddenly boom, the door blank. Blasted open, water gushed in.

STEVENS: As the waters rose, seven took their chances outside while the mayor and the rest climbed into the ceiling space.

ROMUALDEZ: The water was going up. So we had to go all the way in there where we climbed all the way up here -- no, we had to move over there.

STEVENS (on camera): And how high did the water go?

ROMUALDEZ: Almost to the ceiling here.

STEVENS (voice-over): And there they stayed until it was safe. All 14 survived, but how when so many perished around them?

ROMUALDEZ: Time like that you just pray, and then you have to really think before you do something, can you do it? You have to know your capabilities.

STEVENS: But it wasn't over yet. He still had to find whether his family had survived in another house about a mile away. They had.

ROMUALDEZ: My wife kept saying I told you it's going to come. I told you it's going to come, and I was the first one there.

STEVENS: It was an extraordinary escape, but back in the car he tells me so many more would have survived if there had been a simple change in the warnings his town was given. ROMUALDEZ: We have done drills on tsunami and when we do drills, almost about 80 percent of them really get out.


COOPER: And Andrew Stevens joins me now along with Paula Hancocks and Nick Paton Walsh. Andrew, you've been here during the storm and throughout. How frustrated are you by the relief effort here? Have you seen much of a relief effort?

STEVENS: Increasingly frustrated and obviously not just me, Anderson. You walk around downtown Tacloban and there are piles of rotting garbage and carcasses of animals and no real evidence of organized recovery, organized relief going on. I saw a van handing out packages of three-day relief. That was perhaps for 50 people.

There are tens of thousands of people affected. They are walking up to us and saying we have no food. We need water. We need help. So at the moment, the frustration levels down there are extraordinary high and I don't sense they are still really getting a grip on meeting this problem as it should be met.

COOPER: Richard Brandon from the WHO was quoted on NPR today saying if Haiti is a ten, the Philippines is an 11 in terms of difficulty of an operation like this. I mean, really everything has been destroyed here. There is very little now to work with.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's demolition, not really construction. They have to go in and clear vast amounts of the town to get rid of dead bodies. Here is an airport with military attention because the media attention is here. All we saw today is dozens of people trying to leave. There is nothing left in that town now. That the issue they have to deal with, what do you do with the people that used to live here right now? Can you provide them back where they used to live?

HANCOCKS: Of course, the problem they have with the recovery efforts, it's very easy to criticize but of course, the first responders who usually deal with these typhoons are the victims here. They have warehouses filled with goods they usually use for typhoons that are based around here. They are gone, destroyed. They are basically starting from scratch.

COOPER: The local police force, a lot of them, according to the mayor, a lot of them didn't show up in the wake of this obviously. They had their own issues to worry about, their own families to take care of. It's hard -- I don't think pictures as many different pictures as we take it's really hard to get in that small little camera lens and just the scope of the devastation, even though it's not as big as a tsunami in 2004 and as we saw in Sri Lanka, in this area it's total.

STEVENS: It's complete particularly down on the waterfront area where a lot of towns are, that's absolutely flattened and the question, the real question here is how many people actually heeded advice of the authorities to get out, to evacuate before this hit? I heard a lot of stories about people sending out their wives and children and staying back at the house to guard the property from whatever, a lot of people going back before the storm, Anderson.

If you look at the devastation down there, it will take a long time to find out what is under that rubble and consider this was a 600-kilometer storm, the eye passed 10-kilometers to the south, Kevin station right down this coast.

COOPER: When we were covering the tsunami in Japan just a few years ago, I remember on day one or day two, there were members of the Japanese and national defense force out -- even though they didn't have heavy earth moving equipment, they were out with sticks going through the rubble trying to find survivors and those lost. I haven't seen a large Philippine military presence out in these areas. We seen it here in the airport and we are seeing they are cleaning up now parts of the airport, which is certainly a good start, but have you seen that in your time out in the field?

HANCOCKS: No, I mean, the search and rescue operation doesn't even appear to have got started as far as I can see. I've spoken to officials and the president and he said we're focussing on the living. But the search and rescue never seem to materialize. In Japan, you barely saw a dead body after day two because they were systematically going through and trying to retrieve bodies and find people who are still alive and they did find people still alive. Here, I haven't -- I don't know about you --

COOPER: I haven't seen any dogs searching, any people.

HANCOCKS: I've seen two dogs, in five days, two dogs.

WALSH: Locals simply trying to fix the problems themselves. The big question is how many people lost their lives. We've gone from 10,000 to now maybe 2,500. The smell as you-all know is remarkably overpowering and so much of it, gives you a real sense how bad the devastation could be.

STEVENS: This whole relief story is about the victims, about what happens to them over the next week or so. Can they hold out? We're getting stories of looting for three or four days now. Looting is a bit of a mute point for people trying to stay alive. The military presence serves a purpose. It gives the sense of there is authority. You can't have a town that is lawless and people think they can do and have to do what they want. The military is there and makes a difference but without aid it doesn't matter.

COOPER: And most people I talk to would like to see more military out there, you know, on their blocks, helping out, searching for their loved ones because there are mothers searching for children and it's a sickening sight to see on day five of this. Appreciate all your reporting. It's been remarkable work. That's it for us. Hope you join us an hour from now. Another edition of "AC 360" -- we actually have more. I'm a little tired. I'm very tired. We'll be right back after this block.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Welcome back. Let's get a quick check of the other headlines making news. Isha has the 360 Bulletin.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, two Americans kidnapped from an oil supply field ship off the coast of Nigeria last month are free. The U.S. State Department won't give any more details due to privacy concerns.

The captain of the Costa Concordia didn't fall into a lifeboat as he claims, but jumped into it. That's according to a crew member testifying at the captain's manslaughter trial in Italy. The captain also faces a charge of abandoning ship. Thirty two people were killed when the Costa Concordia hit a rock and capsized in January 2012.

Anderson, the new One-World Trade Center on the left is America's tallest skyscraper dethroning Chicago's Willis Tower formally the Sears Tower. A panel of international architects ruled the massive spiral atop could be counted making it 1,776-feet tall, a number symbol wising freedom and a proud day for many New Yorkers -- Anderson.

COOPER: Indeed. Isha, thanks very much. That's it for us here in Tacloban. We'll be back one hour from now at 10:00 p.m. East Coast time with another edition of AC360. I hope you join us for that. "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts right now.