Tacloban (Philippines) (AFP) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry toured the typhoon-devastated central Philippine city of Tacloban on Wednesday, expressing shock at the “stunning” destruction and vowing that Washington will not abandon its key ally.
“This is a devastation unlike anything that I have ever seen at this scale,” Kerry told reporters as he toured a temporary U.S. aid supply depot for survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan.
“It really is quite stunning. It looks like a war zone in every respect and for a lot of people it is,” he said.
“You have to see this to really believe it, and to feel it and understand it.”
Tacloban, a city of 220,000 people, bore the brunt of Haiyan’s fury last month as towering tsunami-like waves whipped up by the storm obliterated many of its coastal districts.
Nearly 8,000 people were killed or remain missing, with Tacloban accounting for more than 5,000 of the total.
Kerry said the destruction was “absolutely staggering” and would leave many speechless.
“Entire communities levelled, water up to the second storey of the airport tower, and all of this covered in water,” he said, gesturing toward tents during his visit to the U.S. Agency for International Development depot near Tacloban’s airport.
He said President Barack Obama had sent him to offer condolences and assure Filipinos of unwavering efforts in assisting the Philippines, which is considered a key U.S. ally in the region.
“Last month’s typhoon broke the world’s heart, but what is certain is that it didn’t break the spirit of the people here,” he stressed.
Kerry paid tribute to the resilience, courage and determination of the survivors while waiting for international aid.
The United States, a long-time military ally of the Philippines, mounted a massive humanitarian response, deploying millions of dollars’ worth of aid.
It also sent an aircraft carrier group and committed 1,000 Marines to help in the immediate rehabilitation effort.
The still impoverished Philippines is battered by an average of 20 storms a year, and Filipinos have long had to deal with weather-related disasters as best they can.