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Ruin and Rescue in the Philippines

Aired November 15, 2013 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Anderson Cooper reporting tonight live from Manila. Thanks for joining us on this edition of "A.C. 360." We're going to have reports from all over the disaster zone.

This is day eight since Super Typhoon Haiyan hit this region and has devastated much -- much of the Philippines in the south, a lot of coastal communities. You have been witnessing what we have been seeing over the last several days.

It's easy to think that by day eight, with all the aid that's coming with the increasing improvements in the way it's being distributed, it's easy to think that the worst is over. But for many people on the ground, the nightmare continues. There is still a lack of food, still a lack water and people are dying.

People are still dying. People will die who don't need to die. They're going to die of things that if they had antibiotics, they could easily be cured of. And we have an example of that this evening. You may have seen this picture.

It's been seen around the world. It's really stunned a lot of people, a woman in a -- what remains of a hospital in Tacloban who has no other option but to try to pump air into her husband's body to keep him alive. She's manually been pumping air into his lungs to keep him alive.

He essentially has a broken leg. But an infection has set in because he wasn't seen by doctors because there weren't doctors who could see him. There weren't surgeons who could operate on him. There weren't antibiotics that could actually stop the infection.

So antibiotics that would cost a few cents were not available. And we're still -- we're not talking about the first day after the storm or the second day. We're talking the third and the fourth and the fifth and the sixth day.

Ivan Watson is joining us now from Tacloban with an update on what has happened to this man. Also joined by Nick Paton Walsh here in Manila.

Ivan, you were just at the hospital. Again, this picture has really captivated. It's been in newspapers. It's been seen on television around the world. You have a update now on what's actually happened. What's gone on? IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I'm very sad to report that the man photographed there, 27-year-old Richard Pulga, who had an open fracture of his right leg, basically, his two shinbones, passed away on Friday, doctors tell me.

They operated on him. He was terribly infected. He had a terrible infection of his leg. He had not, they said, gotten first aid for at least three days, and then he was bandaged. And then this infection set in. And they had no choice but to finally operate on Friday.

But they lacked one critical, critical element that they say could have saved his life. They didn't have blood supplies for a transfusion and could not save him as they operated on him. The doctors tell me that if they had blood and they asked for it -- and it is certainly in stock in other cities and towns around the Philippines -- they could have saved this man's life whose initial injury was a broken leg -- Anderson.

COOPER: I mean, let's just pause and think about that for a moment. A man who had a broken leg is now dead because there wasn't blood supplies, and he had gotten an infection that there weren't antibiotics to treat.

So when people here, when the government has talked about, well, we're focusing on the living, we're focusing on saving the living, simple things like blood, like antibiotics have not been getting out fast enough. And time -- I mean, you can say, well, it's difficult. We're facing a lot of difficulties.

And we all understand that. It's not an easy situation. The infrastructure is bad even in the best of times. But -- but that man should not have died. There was no reason for that man to have died of essentially a broken leg.

As you see on the ground, Ivan, in Tacloban, how is -- how are the efforts going to get the aid out that's at the airport to other places? The fact that the clinic in Tacloban at the airport days ago didn't have food and water and basic supplies, enough supplies, according to doctors that I talked to there, that's right at the airport.

So this hospital is in town. That they didn't have blood is just -- it is inexplicable and heartbreaking. How are things now today?

WATSON: Well, at this one hospital, which was destroyed, its operating rooms were destroyed, it's a private hospital, the Divine Word Hospital, and it was a surgical team that came in from the department of health from another town.

And they have come in and basically taken it over to try to do some of these very urgent operations. They say they have done 17 in the last 36 hours, just giving us a snapshot here. Some of those operations are cesareans, for example. And I saw some very tiny babies who had just been born. But, disturbingly, some of the other operations they have carried out, at least six in the last 24 hours are amputations. These are people who have had also wounds to their limbs, to their legs, to their arms that have gone untreated for the better part of a week, that have gotten infected, and then the doctors have no choice but to basically use a method dating back to the Civil War, chop the limb off.

And we saw a number of men in there with amputations above the knee, below the shoulder. And this is -- these are some of the measures that doctors at this facility are having to take because people have gone untreated a week after the typhoon -- Anderson.

COOPER: And if there were facilities or even vehicles to get those people to the airport, to get them on a plane, to have gotten them out days ago, perhaps could have been saved. Limbs could have been saved.

I want to bring in Nick Paton Walsh.

Nick, you just left Tacloban. You were down where I was several days ago, where a lot of the bodies that have been collected -- and there are still large numbers of bodies that have not collected -- but are actually being gathered in kind of a mass area. What did you see?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, in the last few days, you see the government come. There has been a change on the street. But you're talking there about a lack of communication.

What we saw, one of the key things, was the bodies being gathered. The smell is still on the streets though as you drive through. They have put them together in this makeshift morgue. And then there's an incredibly complex and heartbreaking process of trying to identify who are in those body bags. And it's just the very beginning of trying to get through that process.

COOPER: Let's take a look.


WALSH (voice-over): This is where it ends without ceremony or even their names spoken softly, the corpses that have littered Tacloban as so much of the city leaves come to rest here, and tell parts of the horror of how they must have died, but they leave many questions, too, among the overpowering smell of looming disease.

(on camera): It's a cold but necessary process, the accounting of the dead that happens here. And the condition they arrive in after days in the open and the impact of floodwaters, gruesome, sometimes unrecognizable. But for the relatives who come here in search of their loved ones, it's here that they hear the toughest answers.

(voice-over): Some endure the search for mothers or brothers, but just find more not knowing.


WALSH: The remarkable thing, though, is the people who arrive, one man we spoke to found his father's remains in the corpses that are identified, but hadn't actually found out where his mother was and believed she was in that group.

COOPER: And that's the thing people don't understand. Unless you're seen the conditions of people who have been -- who have drowned in a violent way, who have been hit by debris, who have been left outside for days and days, a mother can be looking at their child and not recognize their own child because of what happens to a body when it's been out like this.

Imagine the heartbreak of that, opening up body bags, searching for your child, and looking at all these remains and not being able to even identify your loved one.

WALSH: There's the emotional heartbreak everyone goes through.

But the most sensitive, horrifying moment of trauma like this is that and what it makes them feel about their government and their government's ability to provide dignity in that important moment and then a simple public health issue, too, because people are going to start getting ill in that town unless debris is cleared away, unless fresh water is more omnipresent. And that's a real issue.

COOPER: And, Ivan, again the government had talked about pre- positioning supplies in the advance of this storm.

And I know electricity was out, facilities were out at hospitals all throughout Tacloban. But it's just stunning to me that this long into it, on Friday, a man can die essentially from a broken leg because of a lack of supplies, and just the prioritizing of things in the immediate aftermath of this I think is probably something that is going to have to be looked at in calmer times so that the next time -- and that's what this is about, not only saving lives now, but that the next time this happens, because it will happen again, what can we learn, what can we learn now about what's happening here that's going to change things the next time around.

Ivan, I appreciate your reporting, Nick Paton Walsh as well.

We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we will talk to somebody from a group I really like a lot, Doctors Without Borders, Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF, about the needs on the ground right now. We will be right back.



COOPER: This is one of the few houses that is still standing, pretty solidly built. Some of the houses that are made out of concrete seem to have survived the storm.

But you just get a sense of the power of the some. And, look, here's a Jeep that's been slammed into the house. And then there's this truck that's been lifted up from somewhere and put on top of the Jeep. And the smell of rotting -- the smell of decay is everywhere around here. There's a cow. Yes, that's a dead cow. And it looks like behind it, there's the body of a person covered in a green cloth.


COOPER: That was Tuesday in Tacloban.

And a body like that more than likely is probably still there. There's still a lot of bodies, particularly bodies that are debris that have not yet been collected. That grim task goes on, and it is thankless work for all the firefighters and others who are doing in.

I want to bring in Damien Moloney. He's from Doctors Without Borders. He's on the ground in Tacloban. It's an organization we have worked with a lot over the years in a lot of very difficult places. They have remarkable experience.

Damien, in terms of the great needs, the greatest priorities for you right now, what are they?

DAMIEN MOLONEY, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: Anderson, at the moment I think it's a logistics problem at the moment. We're having trouble with access, with electricity, with food, with water.

It's really hard to help people if we don't have any of these things. We can't find transport, we can't find drivers. The population is basically leaving the city because it's really difficult to get any of these basic human rights.

COOPER: We saw earlier in this broadcast that a man died essentially of a broken leg, from an infection that spread as a result of that broken leg. He died yesterday after being operated on. His wife was in a hospital in downtown basically manually trying to pump air into his lungs, because there was no one else, there were no nurses to give a hand.

What about the existing medical infrastructure? Are there hospitals operating? Are there -- can people get care? Because I saw there was a clinic at the Tacloban airport, but they seemed overwhelmed two days ago.

MOLONEY: Yes, exactly.

I think at the moment, it's -- people are starting to get -- the hospitals, the structures that are still standing are starting to get a bit overwhelmed. People are starting to come with these really severe infections and -- but also with these chronic diseases and things that people just generally get sick from, upper respiratory tract infections and diarrheal diseases.

And, basically, the hardest part, again, it's logistics. There's very little drugs, there's very little staff. And it's hard to get people here and it's hard to get these drugs here at the moment.

COOPER: What do you need? Do you have all the supplies that you need as an organization?

MOLONEY: Sorry, Anderson. I just lost you.

COOPER: Yes. Do you have all the supplies that you need as an organization?


It actually -- it landed in Cebu, which is the next island across last night, and it's coming across tomorrow morning, so -- on a barge. And then we're going to put up an inflatable hospital with full surgical capacity, outpatients department, OB-GYN, maternity, children, the whole deal.

But just this -- getting things from Manila and from Europe, it's been quite difficult here. And now it's finally on the ground, we have got to get it here. And that's quite difficult as well.

COOPER: And even often getting it off the tarmac, in a lot of places, there aren't forklifts to lift pallets of aid and goods and then, as you said, the trucks to move stuff, the fuel. It's all these logistical things that people don't think about, that people take for granted for, but that really cost -- end up costing people's lives.

I appreciate, Damien, all the work that you're doing, as I always do with Doctors Without Borders. The people can go to our Web site to find out more information about Doctors Without Borders.

Damien Moloney, we will continue to check in with you in the days ahead. Good luck to you.



COOPER: American Marines promised to get this airport up and running on a 24-hour basis. And they have lived up to that promise, along with U.S. Air Force personnel who are here on the ground overseeing operations.

Last night was the first night that C-130 cargo planes were able to happened during nighttime hours. As you can tell, it's already made a difference. There's a lot more aid now on the ground here at the airport in Tacloban.

These are -- these are actually boxes of medical supplies. Looks like they're from Germany. These are boxes, pallets full of boxes from USAID from the United States. These are plastic tarps, sheets that can be cut up by families, thousands of them. They can be used for shelter, which is critically important here for the people who have really no shelter from the elements whatsoever.

The question is, how quickly can this aid be distributed out to the communities that need it most? Can it be distributed safely, efficiently, and quickly? That's the big holdup right now. The Philippine government and the local government here, even the federal government, is very disorganized. There aren't the capabilities. They don't have trucks. There's a shortage of fuel. So how quickly this aid can get out there right now, that's the biggest challenge.


COOPER: All week long, we have seen so many remarkable things and met so many extraordinary people. A lot of times on a story like this, we will put it together in kind of an essay format in a reporter's notebook. Here's mine for this week.


COOPER (voice-over): When everything else is taken away, broken and battered, soaked raw, stripped bare, you see things, you see people as they really are.

This week in Tacloban, Samar, and Cebu, amidst the hunger and thirst, the chaos and confusion, we have seen the best in the Filipino people, their strength, their courage. I can't get it out of my mind.

Imagine the strength it takes for a mother to search alone for her missing kids, the strength to sleep on the street near the body of your child.

(on camera): Where will you sleep tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here in the street.

COOPER (voice-over): We have seen people with every reason to despair, every right to be angry instead find ways to laugh, to love, to stand up, to move forward.

A storm breaks wood and bone, brings hurt and heartbreak. In the end, the wind, the water, the horror it brings is not the end of the story. With aid and assistance, compassion and care, this place, these people, they will make it through. They have already survived the worst. They're bowed perhaps, tired and traumatized, but they are not broken.

Mabuhay, Philippines. Maraming salamat for all you have shown us. Maraming salamat for showing us all how to live.


COOPER: We will be right back.



COOPER: It's been almost a week since the typhoon hit. And the initial adrenaline of the storm and its aftermath is faded.

And just the grim reality of what life is now has taken its place. People are trying to kind of -- rebuild is too strong a word, just trying to survive as best they can. People have hung up some washing on a shack that they put together out of scraps of corrugated tin that they have been able to salvage.

You see women doing washing of plates and clothing, whatever they can find, whatever they can find that they used to own that's been spread out through all this area. You see people all the time now just walking around trying to find their possessions, just trying to find family photographs and plates and all the little things that make up a person's life.


COOPER: Well, that's it for us here in Manila.

Thanks very much for watching.