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Deadly Typhoon Churns Toward Vietnam


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon is away. I'm Don Gonyea. A devastating typhoon has ripped through the Philippines, leaving rescue workers struggling to grasp its magnitude. Typhoon Haiyan left at least 100 people dead and many more injured after making landfall Friday. Communications are down and roads are cut off and local officials expect the number of fatalities to rise. We're joined now by Nicola Jones of the International Red Cross. She is on the island of Cebu, two hours from hard-hit Tacloban City.


GONYEA: So, where were you when the typhoon hit?

JONES: I was on the island of Baho, and Baho was affected yesterday about 2 P.M. The problem for Baho is that it had already been basically destroyed, parts of it, by a massive earthquake just three weeks ago. So, there are certain areas of Baho that were particularly vulnerable to the extreme weather that we had yesterday.

GONYEA: I know you're still struggling to assess things but what can you tell us about what conditions look like now?

JONES: As you know, the communications are down in a big area of Leyti Island. And what we do know is that Leyti Island and Samal Island were the two that were the most largely affected. They have a population of about 3.2 million people there. So, we're expecting the scale of relief effort to be massive. Tacloban City, which is the main city for Leyti, that has been really, really badly devastated. So, I think that we'll see tens of thousands of houses destroyed and power lines are down. There is massive flooding from the storm surge from the typhoon. Because it's not just the rain and the wind that does the damages; there's the subsequent flooding and also landslide because it's a mountainous area.

GONYEA: And what can you tell us about your organization, the International Red Cross's, ability to get help to the affected area at this point?

JONES: Well, the International Red Cross has been working with the Philippine Red Cross. And in this country, the Philippine Red Cross are the network of about half a million volunteers. So, the Red Cross here has had emergency teams in place in those areas where we knew that were being affected. So, there are search and rescue teams in operation and there are rapid assessment teams also in operation that will be now on the ground in those areas trying to find out the scale of the damage to shelter and infrastructure. And we also have emergency supplies ready to go. They've been put into position in warehouses in the Philippines to be sent out to the people in need, and those supplies include things like sleeping mats and emergency hygiene kits, tarpaulins, all the kind of things that you need in the immediate aftermath of this kind of disaster.

GONYEA: And you mention the earthquake, the major earthquake in the region just last month and the flooding that followed. Describe the impact of that as people both prepared for this storm and now deal with this storm.

JONES: The impact of the earthquake was huge. In Baho, the earthquake has left about 270,000 people already sleeping in shelters, makeshift shelters and underneath tents. And people on that island and also on Cebu here now, they were so traumatized by the earthquake. It was massive, and the continuing aftershocks is something that has become part of daily life here as well. And that that then, combined with the typhoon, it's been a very difficult time for people here, and the recovery effort will take months.

GONYEA: Nicola Jones with the International Red Cross, talking to us from the island of Cebu. Thanks for joining us.

JONES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.