Nightly News   |  November 11, 2013

Tacloban residents struggle without food, water

The Philippine city of Tacloban is ground zero in an area completely wiped out by the fast-moving, ferocious typhoon. People are desperate for aid, and have no access to food, shelter or water. NBC’s Harry Smith reports.

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>>> is responding to a disaster in an island nation as we are still learning just how bad the situation is in the philippines though it is now clear it's worse than we first knew. the satellite imagery shows what is now categorized as super typhoon haiyan at its peak intensity as it slammed into and moved across the philippines sending waves of sea water on land. this typhoon uh was the most powerful ever to make landfall. now to the numbers. and these are sure to change because some places are still cut off. the numbers of those feared dead the begins at 10,000. 600,000 people could have been displaced. the cost of the damage could be as high as $14 billion. the storm surge completely washed away some villages and towns. it left a this reviewing city, tacloban in utter ruins. harry smith witnessed the destruction on the ground.

>> reporter: it is an achingly familiar sight -- the aftermath of this typhoon looks like the remnants of other super disasters h. in what we learned from the tsunami in japan and the tsunami in the indian ocean and our own super storm sandy is that the unrelenting water knows no boundary.

>> every building is either significantly damaged or destroyed. it's a 15 to 25-foot wave that came across entire villages. so everything is wiped out.

>> reporter: the city of tacloban looks to be ground zero .

>> survived because i climbed a tree.

>> reporter: we met mekan not far from the ruins of the airport.

>> i'm very happy because i'm alive.

>> reporter: is he and her family are in a makeshift shelter because there is nothing left of their homes.

>> we don't have anything to do but to live. we survived the typhoon and now we are questioning ourselves how to survive in terms of food, in terms of water.

>> reporter: a nearby chapel serves as a makeshift morgue. a father says his 2-year-old son is inside. he explains how fast the water rose. he wonders how anyone survived. people in this once bustling city of 200,000 have seen many typhoons before. but nothing like this. they are without food, without drinkable water . they have no adequate shelter. our colleague angus walker is in another part of the decimated city.

>> the local marketplace, one of the worst affected areas in tacloban . all the shops and houses made of wood, now a pile of tangled timber. reya, 8 months pregnant, shows me the house -- one of few made of concrete -- that her father sheltered in.

>> we are not not able to save our father. very sad.

>> reporter: this typhoon was different because it moved so rapidly. because it was moving so fast and the winds were so ferocious, it piled up water in front of it. what you need to remember about the philippines is it is more than 7,000 islands n. a place like this, the water just stacked up as it moved into the bays and channels and once the water rose, it knocked down everything in sight. there is no power, no fuel. roads and bridges are out. many coastal areas haven't yet been searched. because communications are out there is no way to know the status of the more isolated communities. we hitched a ride with the u.s. marines on a c-130 into tacloban . the u.s. military is ferrying in troops by the hundreds and often carrying storm victims out. while aid is beginning to arrive it is a trickle in an ocean of need. there is no other way to describe the situation in tacloban other than god awful. the stench of death hangs everywhere you go. quite frankly, it's a wonder the people who survived have kept their sanity. brian?

>> harry smith , back in manila tonight. harry, thanks.