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Philippines' Super Typhoon Aftermath


It's been just about a week since a massive typhoon roared across the Philippines and on to Hong Kong and mainland China, and we're still learning about the destruction left in the storm's aftermath. NPR's Julie McCarthy joins us now from the Philippines. Julie, where are you? And tell us what you've seen.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Well, I am in the province of Cagayan on the northeast coast of Luzon. That's the biggest island here. That was one that was really battered. And this province took the full fury of this storm as it made landfall, as you pointed out, last Saturday. The eye of this storm moved across this broad swath of this place, and in its wake, it destroyed homes and crops and fisheries and infrastructure that's estimated at a hundred-million dollars. And now this is also scattered over a huge area, so you really don't get this concentration of damage in one area.

BLOCK: With all the destruction that you're talking about, Julie, how are you able to get around?

MCCARTHY: Well, we flew around with the Philippine Air Force as they were dropping aid in some of these hardest to reach areas. A couple of communities that we saw are right on the coast. The Pacific Ocean sort of laps up on their beach. And you could call it paradise ravaged. I mean, some of their homes were completely leveled. You don't see roofs on some of them. These are spear fishers, they're farmers. They're so isolated they either crawl in a boat or they have to march - they have to walk.

And they live along the mountain range up in the east coast called the Sierra Madres, which acts as a buffer against the storm. But when you're looking out of those helicopters, I can tell you, Melissa, you see cornfields that are flattened and tree stands that are so lacerated there's nothing left on them.

BLOCK: I'm thinking about the destruction from Hurricane Florence here in the States and in the Carolinas. Most of the deaths - more than 40 people so far - have been from flooding. That's been the main problem. What about where you are in the Philippines?

MCCARTHY: Well, you know, we flew over flooded rice fields. But in this city - I'm in the capital - and, in many cities, there's very little evidence to show that there was a massive storm that blew through here. For example, the power's back on here. The streetlights are blazing. The trees that line the streets are still standing, and there's no trace of flooding here. And only six people have died.

But the biggest hazard was the winds. They ripped off roofs of hospitals and homes and buildings. And the typhoon landed packing 125-mile-an-hour winds. And the governor, Manuel Mamba, said that they started at 11:00 the night before the typhoon, and they raged until the next afternoon.

GOV MANUEL MAMBA: And the wind was still strong at 3 p.m. of Saturday. So that's about almost 16 hours of strong wind. That's why, the next day, we could not even tell our rescue people to go on to make a rescue, or we could not even start clearing our streets of debris so that we could rescue people - all because of the very strong wind up 'til 3:00 in the afternoon.

MCCARTHY: You know, Melissa, people talked about these winds being so strong that they felt the earth was moving. They thought there was an earthquake.

BLOCK: Wow. Julie, you mentioned that the Air Force has been dropping aid. Is there enough aid to go around?

MCCARTHY: Well, you know, I was in this vast warehouse, and there were - you know, it's piled up to your waist with rice and mountains of canned goods. And I asked someone who - there who heads the social welfare department how many people could that accommodate. She said it was about 7,000 packages of aid. Now, that's added on to the 5,000 they've delivered, so you get to 12,000.

But, Melissa, that's still a fraction of what the government says is needed to give out assistance. They list 29,000 farmers as destitute. The governor wants the president to declare a state of calamity. The national disaster relief agency said every province should be given that - effectively made a national disaster zone.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Julie McCarthy reporting from the Cagayan province in the Philippines.

Julie, thanks so much.

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

Julie McCarthy has spent most of career traveling the world for NPR. She's covered wars, prime ministers, presidents and paupers. But her favorite stories "are about the common man or woman doing uncommon things," she says.