American teen survived Typhoon Haiyan's fury, saw city 'decimated'

By: ABC News Email
By: ABC News Email
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

Simon Kruzban, 18, of Colorado, huddled in kitchen with his family as Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. (ABC News)

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Tacloban, Philippines -- Americans who survived in the bull's eye 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 mattresses as the storm roared ashore Friday with sustained winds close to 200 mph, making it the most powerful storm in recorded history. Authorities fear the death toll could reach 10,000.

American storm chaser Jim Edd told ABC News he jumped into a hotel swimming pool to escape the winds that filled the air with hurtling debris hurtling.

"It blew hard," Edd said. "It blew for hours and it didn't let up."

Ferocious waves estimated to be 20 feet high were reported and they obliterated everything in their path, including concrete walls and buildings. The storm left tanker ships stranded in the city.

Amid the devastation, there was a moment of elation when a woman gave birth today to a baby girl in Tacloban.

Cheers broke out as Emily Ortega, 21, delivered a healthy daughter named Bea Joy Sagales baby girl inside a damaged office unit in the compound of the Tacloban airport control tower. The birth gave residents and military medics who assisted in the airport delivery a much needed smile in a city where officials estimate thousands are dead.

Ortega was in an evacuation center Friday when the mother, according to the AP, had to swim and cling to a post to survive before she found safety at the airport and eventually gave birth. Her husband in Manila was unaware of what has happened.

Bea Joy Sagales was named after Ortega's mother, who went missing in the storm Friday, the baby's aunt told ABC News.

Three days after Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the region, survivors are wandering through the remains of their flattened home 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.

A total of 1,563 bodies have been counted in 10 of 40 towns of Leyte province, including the city of Tacloban, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council said today, as search and retrieval for the missing and other victims continued.

In the Samar province, Gov. Stephen James Tan said the death toll is more than 400, with 2,000 missing.

Authorities estimated that the death toll could reach 10,000 as rescuers survey areas hardest hit by the storm. With power and communication out for millions, it could take days, if not weeks, before officials in the Philippines learn the full extent of the damage and causalities.

"In some cases the devastation has been total," Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras told the AP.

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 some time 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 today 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 today 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 cell-phone donations, Kerry said today.

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 today 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 today, but weather officials forecast torrential rain in the coming 24 hours across southern China.

ABC News Radio and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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