RYOT in the Philippines: The Hell of Tacloban Airport

2 years ago

Survivors of Typhoon Haiyan are stopped by rescue workers as they try to board a C-130 cargo plane at the airport in Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Despite a devastated infrastructure and logistical apparatus that has made mobility near impossible, RYOT co-founder David Darg is on the ground in the Philippine city of Tacloban to provide emergency relief on behalf of Operation Blessing.

Impressions upon arrival are beyond bleak and the work to be done monumental, but David was able to share some initial observations of the scene at the airport before setting off for town. There, he’ll be working alongside a team of doctors who’ve been treating survivors at an emergency triage clinic the last two days.


JB: What have you been able to ascertain so far since touching down in Tacloban?

David Darg working in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. (RYOT News)
David Darg working in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. (RYOT News)

DD: We haven’t even left the airport yet, but the place is absolutely demolished. Devastated. It’s going to be years and years of recovery to get this place back to normal. There’s hardly any food or water here at all and logistics on the island are horrendous because there’s hardly any gas. The Filipino military is trying to airlift in as much fuel as possible, but it’s hard to access; non-profits have to apply for it.

There are bodies everywhere. A two-minute walk from the airport, I went behind a tree to go to the bathroom and there was a body there. There are piles of debris everywhere. The airport’s not even secure. They’ve erected a temporary fence, but you can walk directly onto the runway. The Filipino military has armed guards to keep people off the tarmac.


JB: How are the people of the Philippines faring as far as you’ve been able to observe?

DD: It’s pretty serious. There are a lot of women fainting, lines miles long with umbrellas shielding families from the sun. There’s a lot of desperation — it’s obvious when you meet someone who’s lost a family member.


JB: You’ve been on a number of natural disaster relief missions in the past, most recently the Moore, Oklahoma tornado, Hurricane Sandy and the 2011 tsunami in Japan. How does what you’ve seen so far in Tacloban compare?

DD: This is the worst airport I’ve ever seen. It’s not even an airport anymore. At least in Port au Prince (Haiti, following the 2010 earthquake) there was a functioning airport. Foreign governments flew in planes to spirit away expatriots. I interviewed a guy from Britain who said he’s hardly had any food or water the last few days. He has appealed to the British government to no avail, asking aloud, “Where is the government? Where is the foreign presence?” A group from Australia said something similar, and this is four days after the storm.

JB: What’s next?

DD: I’m meeting up with a team of doctors who have set up an emergency triage clinic in town. I’ll be hanging out with them for the rest of the day. I’m told we have a house where we’ll be staying on the roof.


We will provide as many dispatches from relief efforts on the ground as we can during this chaotic time.

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