(Photo: Screen grab from wwltv.com)
A Mississippi couple who operates a music ministry in the Philippines said Typhoon Haiyan reminded them of reliving Hurricane Katrina after surviving the deadly superstorm that swept through the island nation last week, claiming the lives of over 3,000 residents.
Doug and Diane Lee have been living in Negros, Philippines, for a year where they also teach English at a Bible college in addition to helping 80 churches with outreach efforts, many of which were destroyed while members of those congregations were also among the casualties.
"The winds were stronger than Katrina, although it reminded me a lot of Katrina," said Diane, reports Louisiana-based wwltv.com. "North of our island here, there's a lot of destruction and damage, but the island is almost in total collapse on the island of Leyte."
Prior to departing to the Philippines, the Lees stateside church, Crossgate Church in Robert, La., raised money to buy a car for their ministry that survived the storm. Pastor Louis Husser, who leads Crossgate, said they became worried when they were not able to reach the Lees due to the severity of the devastation that limited communication throughout dozens of affected provinces.
"We went almost two days and couldn't communicate with them," said Husser. "We were very concerned, a bit unnerving, and then she was able to get a little bit of electricity up to send a few emails and make a couple of phone calls."
Husser says the island that they reside in has opened banks for people's convenience, which makes it easier for the Lees to get money to gather necessary items that the students from the Bible college need.
According to the Filipino National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, over 9 million people in 55 cities have been affected. Over 12,000 have been injured and at least 1,179 are still missing, according to its most recent assessment.
Typhoon Hiayan ripped through the country last Friday with wind gusts measuring over 200 miles per hour before making land fall in Vietnam the next day where 11 people lost their lives.
Due to the scale of the devastation, Haiyan victims were buried in shallow mass graves while thousands more have been left decomposing throughout the streets of several provinces. Local agencies are working to set in place an effective system to properly identify corpses that have been found while trying to clear the wreckage left behind.
However, they fear that the risk of disease is increasing each day as it is evident through the potent smell of flesh that looms in the air.
Currently, international aid has taken longer than hoped for to get to the Philippines due to clogged airports, lack of manpower and blocked roads.
"In a situation like this, nothing is fast enough," said Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, reports FOX news. "The need is massive, the need is immediate, and you can't reach everyone."