‘We just can’t keep going’: Scenes of devastation from Typhoon Haiyan

Story highlights

A family trapped by the storm surge is rescued

A hospital with no supplies turns away patients

Desperate victims are flooding the airport, looking for food and trying to escape

Residents say they've seen looting and fear for their families

Tacloban, Philippines CNN  — 

Homes flattened. Fearful people searching for food. Scarce supplies for emergency medical care.

Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines three days ago, tearing buildings to pieces. No one knows how long it will take to truly recover.

‘Worse than hell’ in typhoon-ravaged Philippines

As residents struggle to survive and officials survey damage and try to get to the most devastated areas, here’s a look at some of the scenes CNN reporters have witnessed in the aftermath of the massive storm:

Hospital without supplies

A hand-drawn sign at the front of St. Paul’s Hospital in the city of Tacloban gives a sense of the dire situation there.

“No admissions,” it says. “No supplies.”

Interactive map of the storm

Without electricity at the large private hospital in this storm-ravaged city, workers used headlamps for light as they performed emergency first aid on victims who streamed in with wounds from flying debris.

“We just can’t keep going,” one doctor says. “There’s just no supplies.”

Children ripped from arms

Cries for help and a dramatic rescue

The sounds of glass shattering and heavy objects crashing filled the air. A scream rang out as the wall of black water surged in toward Tacloban.

A man had taken shelter with his wife, children and elderly grandparents in a hotel as the typhoon neared. He thought they’d be safer there than inside their Tacloban home.

But as the storm surge pushed in toward the first-floor hotel room where he huddled with his family, he realized they were all in danger. He smashed the hotel room’s windows, trying to find a way to escape.

A CNN crew hunkered down in a corridor on the fourth floor heard his wife crying out for help.

Along with storm chaser Josh Morgerman, they used a mattress to pull members of the family to safety as waters rushed in.

Searching for family lost in the storm

Splintered wood beams cover the ground where roads once connected a neighborhood about 100 meters from the coastline.

Here, the storm surge plowed down homes, leaving behind mounds of rubble as far as the eye can see.

Authorities pleaded with residents in the coastal area to evacuate as the storm approached. It’s unclear how many did, and how many may be missing.

Amid the chaos, one man says he is searching for his father, brothers and uncles under the rubble.

“We all tried to leave, but it was too late,” he says. “I got separated when the waters started rising. I don’t know what happened to them.”

Devastation for miles

From the air, the damage to Tacloban is striking.

Forests of palm trees were mowed down on hills surrounding the city.

Inside the city, the damage is catastrophic.

The storm surge shoved massive freight ships ashore.

Many buildings were flattened. Those that weren’t had large chunks ripped away by ferocious waters and winds from the storm.

William Hotchkiss, general director of the Philippines’ Civil Aviation Authority, says he’s never seen anything like it in decades of flying over the country after storms.

He says he fears his country faces more disasters like this in the future.

“The biggest challenge,” he says, “is to sort of come up with structures that will take into consideration what they call ‘the new normal’ – storms that are maybe as destructive as this one.”

How to help

Desperate victims flood airport

Magina Fernandez’s voice cracked as she came face to face with her country’s president at Tacloban’s airport.

Help, she said, hasn’t come quickly enough.

“We need to get the word out,” she told him, “because the Philippine government can’t do this alone.”

Fernandez was among the steady stream of typhoon victims arriving at the airport, searching for food, water and a chance to escape. She told CNN she’s desperate to leave the city.

“Get international help to come here now – not tomorrow, now,” she said. “This is really, really like bad, bad, worse than hell, worse than hell.”

Water, wind and fire create catastrophe

Amid looting, fear spreads

Richard Young wears a green whistle around his neck on a plastic strap.

He’s been carrying it since Saturday night, when small groups started forming to defend his neighborhood. They stayed up all night, he says, prepared to whistle if they saw any looting.

But whistles aren’t the only thing they have, he said. Many are also carrying weapons.

“As long as they don’t harm my kids, my family, that’s OK,” he said. “But once we are threatened, we will shoot. All of us, we are ready.”

Already, the Filipino businessman says he’s been shocked at the looting he’s seen in the city – not just food, he says, but large appliances like refrigerators and washing machines. Thieves, he said, have already ransacked his shop and others nearby.

“We are very afraid. … In Tacloban we are almost 98% Catholics, and I can’t believe they did this,” he said. “Nobody would think it’s going to be lawlessness.”

Philippines gets more than its share of disasters

CNN’s Tim Schwarz, Brad Olsen, Chandrika Narayan and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.