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After Typhoon Tore Through, People 'Were Left On Their Own'

In Guiuan, the Philippines, the typhoon left behind destruction and left people fending for themselves in the first days after.
John Alvin Villafranca
Courtesy of David Santos and the photographer
In Guiuan, the Philippines, the typhoon left behind destruction and left people fending for themselves in the first days after.

The concrete floors and walls shook, the door of the room almost blew off its hinges and he "said a lot prayers," Filipino TV reporter David Santos says as he remembers what it was like to ride out Typhoon Haiyan inside a small hospital in the Philippines town of Guiuan.

Then, when he and other survivors emerged on Friday, the scene was incredible.

David Santos on saying prayers as the typhoon raged.
David Santos on realizing how widespread the destruction was.

"It was total chaos," he told All Things Considered host Audie Cornish on Tuesday. Buildings were flattened. Trees were down everywhere. People were scavenging what they could; looting if they had to.

Law and order, Santos says, was gone. "People were left on their own on how to respond to the situation," he told Audie, "and unfortunately help did not come immediately."

Santos, a reporter for the Philippines' Solar News TV channel, left Guiuan on Saturday for what would normally be a 3- to 4-hour motorcycle trip to the larger city of Tacloban. It took him and his cameraman 16 hours.

"We were crossing over ... so much debris," he says, that travel was painfully slow. On the trip, "we passed through 10 towns. ... The situation in each and every town was the same. It was only then I realized ... the breadth and intensity" of the typhoon.

Much more from Santos' conversation is due on Tuesday's All Things Considered. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.

He has also been on the air at Solar News, describing what he saw. And, Santos is active on both Twitter and Facebook.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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