CEBU, Philippines (USA TODAY) — After two days with no news from her family since Typhoon Haiyan blasted through their hometown on Leyte island, elementary teacher Cherry Gonzaga took action Sunday.
The nearest airport to home remains battered and closed, so she left Manila for Cebu city, then queued for a late-night ferry.
"There's no way to get through to them, and my entire family is there, 15 people," said Gonzaga, 24, as she waited for tickets at a Cebu pier with dozens of other Filipinos desperate to learn whether their relatives are safe.
As many as 10,000 people may have died when one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded destroyed entire villages and devastated cities with huge waves and winds of nearly 150 mph.
To curb incidents of looting by hungry residents in hard-hit Tacloban city — Leyte's capital and air hub that is now closed to all but military and relief flights — authorities dispatched more than 100 additional police officers Sunday.
"A privately owned chopper tried to land in Leyte Sunday but couldn't as the residents rushed it," said Frederick Bonjoc, public affairs officer at Cebu airport. "They were unafraid of getting hit by the chopper as they are desperate for supplies."
The north part of Cebu island also suffered extensive damage, Bonjoc said.
"In my mother's hometown, Bogo city, 70 to 80% of houses have had their roofs blown off, but luckily none of my relatives were killed," he said.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported many family tragedies Sunday in Tacloban. In one case, two men silently pushed a wooden cart bearing the bloated bodies of a woman, her teenage son and her baby through the flooded downtown, the newspaper reported.
The woman, Erlinda Mingig, was a 48-year old fish vendor who was trapped inside her one-story home with her two children.
"I told them to stay in the house because it was safer," said her husband Rogelio, 48, but the water rose so quickly she could not open the door to escape. "We found her embracing the children in one arm and grabbing on to the ceiling with the other."
As telethons continued nationwide to raise money for victims, residents in the spared capital of Manila said they were keeping a close eye on the destruction to the south.
"It's worrying and devastating, the strongest typhoon ever," said Lourdes Lozada, 50, an electrical engineer. "It will be really hard for them to recover, and it won't be quick, but help is coming from inside and outside the Philippines."
"I've been through many typhoons where roofs are blown off, but nothing this strong," she added. "The scariest part was the storm surge; people didn't expect it would be like a tsunami."