From the air the scene below resembles a giant rubbish tip: mile after mile of debris and barely a building standing in the aftermath of a storm 500 kilometres wide.
Reaching the remote areas of the Philippines’ myriad of islands presents a colossal challenge for the international relief effort underway.
Typhoon Haiyan killed an estimated 10,000 in one area alone and several million need help.
The two island provinces worst affected are hundreds of kilometres from the capital Manila.
“Please tell my family I’m alive,” said one young woman, Erika Mae Karakot. “We need water and medicine because a lot of the people we are with are wounded. Some are suffering from diarrhoea and dehydration due to a shortage of food and water.”
Residents in Tacloban, the city worst affected, forced open a petrol station and helped themselves to supplies. One said he needed to travel by motorbike to look for food as local stores had been ransacked.
A Red Cross convoy was also attacked. The arrival of emergency supplies presents a major security problem.
The authorities have declared a state of emergency in Tacloban amid scenes of anarchy and looting as desperate people searched for food.
A military doctor was on hand as a baby girl was born in an airport control tower, but for now only a few are benefiting from outside help.
The government of the Philippines says the authorities locally simply do not have the material or human resources needed.
US military aircraft and ships are being used to provide help. The EU Humanitarian Aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said transport routes and communication had to be assured before immediate assistance could be delivered.
Britain is releasing more than seven million euros worth of funds to send immediate emergency supplies of items such as water purification tablets and shelter kits, and says it will be working with the International Red Cross and other agencies on the ground.
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