MANILA -- Video footage shot by an international aid worker shows the power of the storm surges that devastated parts of the central Philippines when Typhoon Haiyan made landfall more than a week ago.
Nickson Gensis, of the British-based child development agency Plan International, shot the video from a boarding house in Hernani, on the island of Samar, as crashing waves knocked down a building in front of him.
"Six of us took refuge on the top floor of a boarding house. Five were praying and I was filming," Gensis told Plan International.
"We were so scared. But I thought, 'If I die, so be it.' It was like a huge tsunami, but the water receded quickly afterward. We ventured downstairs and outside around noon. I took shots of the boarding house we had been in because I was so thankful it protected me."
The Nov. 8 storm, known by Filipinos as Yolanda, was one of the most powerful on record. At least 3,976 people were killed across a swath of islands, with 1,598 still missing, according to the latest government figures. More than 4 million were displaced.
Most of the casualties were on the islands of Leyte and Samar, which were hit by massive storm surges. The city of Tacloban, the Leyte provincial capital, was the worst-hit.
"One is tempted to despair," President Benigno Aquino III told reporters Monday as he toured rural communities near Tacloban.
Under fire for what critics describe as a slow response to the disaster, Aquino announced this weekend that he was moving to Tacloban for a while to oversee the relief efforts. While praising the efforts of some local authorities, he questioned why others had borne the brunt of the casualties, suggesting that they might not have done a good job preparing for the storm or responding once it had hit.
Tacloban Mayor Alfredo Romualdez told the BBC that the city's first responders were "victims too" and that the city was "on its knees."