(TACLOBAN, Philippines) — An American who survived Typhoon Haiyan and was evacuated from the hardest hit area earlier on Tuesday said she saw countless women and children trapped under a tarp when the storm roared ashore with powerful winds.
Rebecca Ruth Guy, 19, was living in the city of Tacloban, which bore the full force of the winds and tsunami-like storm surges last Friday. Most of the city is in ruins — a tangled mess of destroyed houses, cars and trees.
“When the storm hit, our apartment was flooding so we tried opening the door but the flooding was already rising up to our chest,” Guy told ABC News.
Faced with a life-and-death situation, Guy’s friend smashed the window so they could climb to the roof and escape the storm surge, which is being blamed for a large part of the destruction and death.
“We got out to the roof,” she said. “The rain was coming, the winds were crazy and it was getting cold. So we ended up sandwiching together and holding onto one another for warmth, praying for protection of the people.”
“The most harrowing was when I saw women and children piled under tarpaulin, and when I saw dogs skewered on gates, cars thrown into buildings, people trying to find something to eat, water to drink,” she added.
Guy was a part of the second group of Americans who were transported out of Tacloban on the U.S. military’s C-130 plane. There was a long line of Americans, young and old, boarding the plane from the tarmac who were in need of water, food and, in some cases, medical attention.
A third group of Americans is expected to be evacuated later Tuesday along with some locals, who walked to the airport for days hoping for a chance to leave their obliterated home behind them.
It was a far different scene when two Philippine Air Force C-130s arrived in Tacloban earlier on Tuesday only able to evacuate a few hundred. Many were left behind, forced to wait for the next flight and more relief supplies.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council confirmed at least 1,774 deaths, although officials fear the number of dead could rise to 10,000. More than nine million people have been affected, according to the United Nations, and more than 660,000 have been displaced.
More than 2,000 residential buildings in Tacloban are either heavily damaged or completely destroyed. All that remains is a barren wasteland of hunger, filth and the unmistakable stench of death as bodies remain trapped under debris.
Aid groups and militaries from the United States and other governments are racing to help the victims of the typhoon.
U.S. boots on the ground are bringing much needed backup as powerful Osprey helicopters are now ferrying supplies to the hardest hit areas.
“A disaster this magnitude could completely overwhelm any force or any government and what the Osprey can do is to supplement the exiting rotary wing lift that the Philippine Air force already possess,” U.S. Col. John Peck of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade told ABC News.
The U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier USS George Washington, along with several other ships, is also on its way to the Philippines to provide assistance.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN