We all fell silent when we saw the dreadful devastation

Angus Walker

Former ITV News Correspondent

Nina Duran 12 year is seen searching for belongings in the ruins of her family. Credit: Axel Oberg, Press Association

There were 11 of us in the car today. We'd got a lift to the town of Tanauan and on the way back we stopped to pick up Peachy and Pinky, sisters, plus their parents, Pinky's husband and son also crammed themselves in.

Through the fierce afternoon downpour we made our way back to Tacloban.

It's almost a week since the Typhoon hit and we talked about how they almost died. When the storm surge came it filled their house, the water rose to the ceiling in seconds. They clung to the rafters of their wooden home and punched a hole in the roof.Clinging on with one hand, Pinky was treading water, only her nose and mouth exposed.

Peachy got out and pulled her sister through the hole. "She saved your life," I said.

"Yes" she smiled, "she did".

The family are now, like so many here, leaving in the morning. Hoping for seats on the ferry to Cebu and a sense of safety. I've heard so many stories of survival and loss as I've walked the streets of Tacloban this week. Of how people had managed to climb just high enough to escape, swim to safety or float on debris.

Food queues on the roadside. Credit: ITV News

My first sight of the dreadful devastation was from the window of the Air Force aircraft that brought us here, we all fell silent. It was difficult to comprehend. The hillsides until last Friday were always covered with thick jungle, now you see bare tree trunks bristling along the ridge overlooking the city.

Nature's power destroying the beauty of this place along with the buildings.

Families have been leaving the area where possible. Credit: ITV News

The first night we spent at the airport, sleeping on the floor of what had been the baggage hall, we set up our gear on the conveyor belt. Using the broken rubber mats as improvised mattresses. The building was partially ruined, I could see the stars through the gashed, torn roof when I finally lay down to snatch a short sleep.

As the night went on, more and more people came and shared the shelter, we handed water to women with babies. Hundreds arrived in the night, coming to the airport, seeking a way out, from the hell unleashed on their hometown.

Survivors are leaving in they can. Credit: ITV News

Just after dawn, as the first aid flights began to land. We were offered a ride into the city centre by a kind local who offered us his car and his home. We're still under his roof, sharing the shortages and helping when we can, our supply of fuel most welcome.

Nina Duran 12 year is seen searching for belongings in the ruins of her family. Credit: Axel Oberg, Press Association

For the first few days we headed off on foot, joining the streams of people still dazed by the awful calamity. A car was useless with so many roads blocked by fallen power lines and telegraph poles. As you walked towards the sea, the damage got worse, houses crushed by the power and weight of the waves, vehicles flung through walls. The dead lying in the street, baking in the heat. Appalling, horrific. The corpses of children the most distressing.

Almost 200 people have been buried in a mass grave. Credit: ITV News

We walked through the areas where the locals told us the poorest of the poor live. Making a living from market trading and fishing in a wooden shanty town built along the old coast road; they'd always lived on the edge of disaster in this typhoon prone country. This typhoon was different - it tore through even concrete buildings. Now most were dead, their bodies floating in the sea that once gave them a living and offered them a future.

The stilts that once supported the cramped fishing village now snapped off by the sheer strength of the wind and waves. All life was gone. For mile after mile there was nothing but silence and misery. Rhea Almacera, eight months pregnant, wept as she explained how her dad had sheltered in the sturdiest of the houses. The wind had punched a huge hole straight through the second storey and taken her father with the smashed walls.

His wife, mother and four children dead, Alexander Docena had a wide eyed stare as he talked to me. The shock of his overwhelming loss clear in his face. He was dragging their bodies onto corrugated iron sheets, and loading them onto a truck.

"11,10, 5, 2", almost all he could say was their ages.

Buildings can be rebuilt, roads can be cleared and power restored but it'll take many, many years to repair lives here.