(TACLOBAN, Philippines) — Americans who witnessed and survived in the bullseye of Typhoon Haiyan — including a stunned teenager — described a storm that demolished concrete, drowned children and tossed large freighters onto land.
Simon Kruzban, 18, of Colorado, huddled in a kitchen with his whole family in the city of Tacloban, which bore the brunt of the typhoon’s fury.
There were “lots of injuries and then dead bodies all over the place once we, like, kind of left the neighborhood and walked sort of downtown,” Kruzban told ABC News. “We were talking to a friend that lives in the neighborhood next door. … Apparently, like, 50 little kids got sucked away.”
Kruzban said he’d watched a neighborhood that he’d grown to love “get completely decimated.”
“Just horrible,” he said.
Residents said they clung to roofs and floated on inflatable mattresses as the storm roared ashore Friday with sustained winds close to 200 mph, making it the most powerful storm in recorded history.
Ferocious waves estimated to be 20 feet high were reported and they obliterated everything in their paths, including concrete walls and buildings. The storm left tanker ships stranded aground in the city.
As of Monday afternoon, at least 1,774 deaths had been confirmed by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. And the death toll is expected to top 10,000, officials said.
More than 9 million people have been affected, according to the United Nations, and more than 660,000 have been displaced.
Three days after Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the region, survivors are wandering through the remains of their flattened homes searching for loved ones, food, water and medicine. With reports of increased looting in Tacloban, a state of emergency has now been declared and a curfew has been put in place.
In Samar province, Gov. Stephen James Tan said the death toll is more than 400, with 2,000 missing.
President Benigno Aquino declared a state of national calamity and in a statement he said that the provinces of Leyte and Samar had suffered massive destruction and loss of life.
With power and communications out for millions, it could take days, if not weeks, before officials in the Philippines learn the full extent of the damage and casualties.
The devastation and twisted piles of debris hampered rescue efforts and the ability to get aid to people for most of the weekend.
Richard Gordon, head of the Red Cross in the Philippines, said resources are now reaching people.
“Slowly but surely we’re getting in and we’re also clearing the area of debris so that our people can go in. We’re doing everything we can to get to the victims very, very fast,” he told ABC News Radio.
Gordon said he’s concerned about a tropical depression that could hit the Philippines sometime this week.
A tropical depression east of Southern Mindanao has entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility and was named Zoraida. While the winds are around 30 mph, this new storm could bring substantial rainfall to the region later this week.
“I just hope that the rains don’t linger because if the ground is saturated then we’ll have a problem with landslides,” Gordon said. “We may have another problem with floods. And it’s going to be hitting the same area.”
Agencies from the United States and other governments are racing to help the victims of the devastating typhoon.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the U.S. government “is organizing emergency shipments of critically needed material to provide shelter to the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos driven from their homes by this unprecedented typhoon. We are also organizing emergency shipments of food and hygiene supplies to thousands of families.”
A U.S. military plane carrying relief supplies and a contingent of Marines has left the Philippine capital Manila en route to Tacloban.
Two C-130 planes left Manila’s Vilamor air base Monday loaded with bottled water, generators wrapped in plastic, a forklift and two trucks.
Team Rubicon, a volunteer group of military veterans and first responders, is sending a 15-member team from California to the Philippines to help victims. It was working with the State Department and also coordinating cellphone donations, Kerry said Monday.
Incident commander for Team Rubicon, Vince Moffitt, said they’re focusing on the hard hit city of Tacloban.
“I think it’s going to be one of the biggest, most tragic events we’ve witnessed so far,” Moffitt told ABC News Radio, adding that initial reports indicated “this is going to be a massive, massive destruction. Unfortunately, it looks like a lot of loss of lives. Complete catastrophic events.”
Annette Lynn of Save the Children told the BBC they’re working as quickly as possible to help the homeless.
“Quite a dire situation at the moment. …They have no home, they have no assets and they have nothing on them at all. They need food, they need clean water, they need electricity,” she said.
Meanwhile, the typhoon made landfall in northern Vietnam Monday after crossing the South China Sea. Authorities there evacuated hundreds of thousands of people, but there were no reports of significant damage or injuries.
It was downgraded to a tropical storm as it entered southern China later Monday, but weather officials forecast torrential rain in the coming 24 hours across southern China.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN