On Friday I posted about satellite images of typhoon Haiyan bearing down mercilessly on the Phillipines. I called this post “The Destroyer of Worlds,” because it was very clear even then what we would see. And now we can see it.
The reports, the videos, and the images are beginning to come in and it is as expected or maybe worse than expected, because you can never truly foresee something this bad. There are over ten thousand dead, whole towns destroyed. And there are countless families destroyed. The New York Times today quoted Robert S. Ziegler, the director general of the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Philippines, who said that he was worried that he was very concerned that the damage reports were coming from Tacloban, the capital of the province of Leyte, which is 360 miles from Manilla, but not from the many fishing communities that line the coast.
“The coastal areas can be quite vulnerable — in many cases, you have fishing communities right up to the shoreline, and they can be wiped out” by a powerful storm surge of the sort that hit Tacloban, he said. “The disturbing reports are the lack of reports, and the areas that are cut off could be quite severely hit.”
Nothing really can be said that truly captures what we are now seeing. Even the images only touch a raw nerve and then are gone. But the people remain, the desperation remains. We begin with a beautiful view from space. But as soon as we come closer down the stark reality captures us and we begin to imagine. Finally, zoom down to the human level and it becomes very personal.