U.S. Military Helps Transport Typhoon Survivors

Stories of survival are still emerging from the Philippines following the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan. The U.S. military has been playing a major role helping the area recover. Survivors say if not for U.S. Marine transport planes, they would be trapped in Tacloban.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Stories of survival are emerging from the Philippines after the devastation brought by Typhoon Haiyan. Twenty-three-year-old Marcelo Maloon(ph) was studying nursing in Tacloban, the city hardest hit by the storm. And on the day of the typhoon, Maloon took shelter in a hotel with friends.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

From a third floor window, Maloon filmed videos he then posted to his Instagram account, showing debris flying through the air and cars being swept through the flooded street below. After the storm, he retuned to his home.

MARCELO MALOON: The wall is down. Everything (unintelligible). And I can see the dead bodies in the sea. And under the debris of the house, you can see the dead over there.

INSKEEP: Mr. Maloon then managed to escape Tacloban and reach his parents' home, which is on the nearby island of Cebu.

MALOON: I'm shocked. Even though I'm safe here in Cebu, I'm still thinking about what happened in Tacloban. I think this is my second life.

INSKEEP: Marcelo Maloon is still hoping to take his nursing exam next month, so that one day he can get a job as a nurse here in the United States.

MONTAGNE: Now, the U.S. military is ramping up its efforts to help storm victims. Today, the Pacific Command announced that it's set up a joint task force to oversee the American military's response. The designation is supposed to help streamline the Armed Forces' role in the relief operation. The aircraft carrier USS George Washington has also arrived in the Philippines to help. And U.S. Marine transport planes have been flying between the typhoon-battered city of Tacloban and an airbase in the Philippine capital.

NPR's Jason Beaubien has this report from the capital, Manila.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIRCRAFT ENGINE)

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Here at the Villamor Air Base next to the international airport, evacuees from Tacloban are streaming off the back ramp of a hulking C-130 aircraft. Some of the people are in wheelchairs. Some are being carried by U.S. Marines. Pallets of rice, food and bottled water are sitting on the tarmac, waiting to be ferried in to Tacloban on the return trip.

Omar Sanduala just got off the plane. He says he and five members of his family had spent three days at the Tacloban Airport trying to get a flight out.

OMAR SANDUALA: I'm happy because I'm (unintelligible).

(SOUNDBITE OF WEEPING)

BEAUBIEN: The 36-year-old Sanduala breaks down, saying that he's just happy now to be alive and to see the face of his sister, who came to the airport to meet him. Three members of his family are still missing.

SANDUALA: (Tagalog spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Speaking in Tagalog, he says Tacloban is destroyed. He calls the city a ghost town, not because people have abandoned it, but because the streets are now filled with the ghosts of the all the people who just died there. His sister says the stench of rotting bodies in the streets is overwhelming. Despite this, Sanduala says he hopes to be able to return home, maybe in a month or two.

American expatriate Joe Davis, who was ferried out on an earlier U.S. transport flight, wasn't so optimistic about how quickly Tacloban might recover.

JOE DAVIS: I figure it's going to take at least one year to get power fully back on, and maybe another two years for the city to get back like it was.

BEAUBIEN: How long have you lived there?

DAVIS: I've lived there for four years.

BEAUBIEN: Davis was fleeing the city with his Filipina wife and their daughter. Their house wasn't destroyed, but he says the city has become un-livable. There's no food, and he says people are getting desperate.

DAVIS: Yeah, it started getting pretty bad. People started breaking in, some shootings and some robbings. And it's going to get worse.

BEAUBIEN: Davis says if it wasn't for the U.S. Marine transport planes, he'd be trapped in Tacloban. Between the debris and the danger, there'd be no way to leave the devastated city.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Manila.

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