On Friday 8 November super typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) traversed the Philippines leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The Philippines lies in the western Pacific and is the first major landfall above the equator before continental Asia. The Philippines is an archipelago comprising of thousands of islands. It is directly in the path regular typhoons that roll in from the Pacific. The capital Manila often bears the brunt of the typhoon season but this time the weather system struck land further south in the Visayan region. The storm came hot on the heels of a 7.2 earthquake in the same region in October. The earthquake demolished many historic buildings, left over 200 dead and many of the survivors were still living in tents when the typhoon hit.
The Eastern Visayan town of Tacloban has become the poster town for Yolanda in the international media. Over 10,000 are feared dead although there is no immediate prospect of an official death toll given the chaotic situation on the ground across a wide area. Despite the warnings many people in Tacloban were unable to find adequate shelter as the storm hit. People were advised to head for concrete structures. One of those chosen as a refuge, the airport, was completely destroyed by the strength of the storm. The images coming out of Tacloban are reminiscent of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The devastation to the city is near complete. Dead bodies litter the streets and virtually no structures are left standing. A similar although less extreme picture is emerging from other areas in the region.