The city of Tacloban, with a population of 220,000, was completely destroyed by the storm surge, which sent waves as high as 13 feet through the city.
"There is no power, no water, nothing," Voltaire Gazmin, the Philippines defense secretary told reporters. "People are desperate. They're looting."
Rescue efforts and a true picture of the devastation have been hampered by the severity of the storm: Local law enforcement were missing and communications were completely lost with much of the affected areas. Looting has spread across the devastated areas, as the damage has left people without water, food, electricity, or any semblance of a functioning infrastructure. CNN reports that attempts to get food to survivors were delayed by debris blocking airports and washed out roads.
"We really are having access problems," hilippine National Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon told CNN. "It really is an awful, awful situation."
"The last time I saw something on this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami," Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, the head of a United Nations disaster assessment team sent to the area. "This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumbleweed."
The storm, which hit early Friday morning, moved quickly through the Philippines, before heading to the West, where it now threatens Vietnam. The cyclone might have been the most powerful in history, hitting the nation of islands at over three times the strength of Hurricane Katrina.