I learned the smell of death

While World Vision has launched a full-scale response effort, immediately providing emergency aid to 400,000, our own staff and their families in the area have also been affected. With communications down, we've been unable to contact several of our colleagues whose homes were in the path of Typhoon Haiyan.

World Vision Philippine's staffer Mikhaela De Leon hadn't been heard from for the past few days since the storm hit Tacloban City. Today, we consider it an answer to prayer, that she has made her way back to Manila. This post is from her diary.

I wrote this in my diary while I was waiting to board the C-130 plane bound for Manila from Tacloban, hindi pa nga lang tapos:

"I learned the smell of death.

The stench of at least 1,000 dead bodies hung in the air as I took the longest and most depressing walk of my life. I will never forget that trip to the Tacloban Airport – it was noontime, and the air already humid and stale, a far cry from the billowing winds of two days prior.

A jeepney driver ahead told us to cover our noses as we passed, for the air reeked of the dead.

“Where are the bodies?” I asked him, as I didn’t see any.

“There in the rubbles, buried in those collapsed houses. Hundreds of them,” he said.

Dead bodies lined the streets

I cringed. It didn't take long before I actually saw them.

In the streets lined up dead bodies -- bloated and stiff, their bodies twisted in awkward poses. I had never once imagined myself seeing such a ghastly scene: human corpses and dead animals lying side by side along the highway as though on exhibit.

"Yan ang nangyayari sa matitigas ang ulo. Ayaw kasi mag-evacuate kahit sinabihan na." [They were stubborn. They were told to evacuate but they didn't listen], I heard someone say.

I looked away. It felt disrespectful to stare. I walked on. I was only thinking one thing: home."

Learn more about World Vision's work in disaster situations.