VILLAMOR AIR BASE, PHILIPPINES - U.S. Marine and other American military planes airlifted fifty tons of supplies into Tacloban on Tuesday, where several hundred thousand survivors are growing desperate after days without food or clean water.
Five days after Super Typhoon Haiyan tore through the region, killing more than 2,200 people, authorities say airports and major roads are opening. Soon a fleet of U.S. Navy vessels, led by the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, will join the effort.
U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General Paul Kennedy, who has flown over the devastation, describes the storm as “a tsunami with the strength of a cyclone” nearly 100 kilometers wide.
“Every single palm tree has been ripped out of the ground, and they’re laying across the roads," he said. "It’s just strewn. They’re matchsticks all over the ground there.”
Aircraft are departing Villamor Air Base in Manila with supplies and returning with survivors.
According to Dan Dieckhaus, civil-military coordinator with the U.S. Agency for International Development, it's too soon to estimate how many planeloads of equipment and basic necessities are still needed.
“This is a significant problem," he said from his post at the base. "We are mobilizing and taking steps to move the relief effort forward.”
For the 31 members of Jeffrey Pica’s family who managed to escape Tacloban on an American cargo plane, there may be nothing to return home to.
“It’s good our family survived and could come here," he said. "And we’re going to stay because there’s nothing to go back to there.”
“McDonald’s Hamburgers, they’re all there looting all of the chicken out of it. Bringing trays of chickens," he said. "[I asked] ‘Could I have two bags? Yes, please.' I got two bags. Went home, had tea because there’s no food in the hotel, no water, no electricity.”
The amount of aid is now set increase significantly with repairs to Tacloban airport, which was severely damaged in the storm.
According to the Civil Defense office, about 600,000 surviviros remain displaced, with almost half staying at evacuation centers.
Simone Orendain contributed to this report.