November 12, 2013

Tons of aid in Philippines, but not where needed

The official death toll from the disaster rose to 1,774 on Tuesday and more than 9 million people have been affected across a large swath of the country.

By Todd Pitman And Jim Gomez
The Associated Press

TACLOBAN, Philippines — The day after Typhoon Haiyan struck the eastern Philippine coast, a team of 15 doctors and logistics experts was ready to fly here to the worst-hit city to help. On Tuesday, five days into what could be the country's deadliest disaster, they were still waiting to leave.

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A man walks home with his son Monday, following Friday's devastating typhoon that lashed Hernani township, in eastern Samar province, in the central Philippines.

Photos by the Associated Press

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Survivors look up at a military C-130 plane as it arrives at typhoon-ravaged Tacloban city, Leyte province, in central Philippines on Monday. Stunned survivors of one of the most powerful typhoons ever to make landfall picked through the remains of their homes Monday and pleaded for food and medicine as the Philippines struggled to deal with what is likely its deadliest natural disaster.

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Aid is coming to Tacloban: medical supplies, pallets of water and food piled on trucks, planes and ferries, sent by the Philippine government and countries around the world. But the scale of the disaster and challenges of delivering the assistance means few in this city, strewn with debris and corpses, have received any help.

A team from Médecins Sans Frontières, complete with medical supplies, arrived in Cebu island on Saturday looking for a flight to Tacloban, but hadn't left by Tuesday. A spokesman for the group said it was "difficult to tell" when it would be able to leave.

"We are in contact with the authorities, but the (Tacloban) airport is only for the Philippines military use," Lee Pik Kwan said in a telephone interview.

At the medics' intended destination, thousands of typhoon victims were trying to get out. They camped at the airport and ran onto the tarmac when planes came in, surging past a broken iron fence and a few soldiers and police trying to control them. Most didn't make it aboard.

"We need help. Nothing is happening," said Aristone Balute, an 81-year-old who didn't get on a flight out of the city. "We haven't eaten since yesterday afternoon." Her clothes were soaked from the rain, and tears streamed down her face.

An Associated Press reporter drove through the town for around 7 kilometers (4 miles) on Wednesday and saw more than 40 bodies. He saw no evidence of any organized delivery of food, water or medical supplies, though piles of aid have begun to arrive at the airport. Some people were lining up to get water from a hose, presumably from the city supply.

"There is a huge amount that we need to do. We have not been able to get into the remote communities," U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said in Manila. "Even in Tacloban, because of the debris and the difficulties with logistics and so on, we have not been able to get in the level of supply that we would want to. We are going to do as much as we can to bring in more."

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said relief goods were getting into the city, and the supply should increase in coming days now that the airport and a bridge to the island were open.

"We are not going to leave one person behind — one living person behind," he said. "We will help, no matter how difficult, no matter how inaccessible."

Doctors in Tacloban said they were desperate for medicine. Beside the ruined airport tower, at a small makeshift clinic with shattered windows, army and air force medics said they had treated around 1,000 people for cuts, bruises, lacerations and deep wounds.

"It's overwhelming," said Air Force Capt. Antonio Tamayo. "We need more medicine. We cannot give anti-tetanus vaccine shots because we have none."

The longer survivors go without access to clean water, food, shelter and medical help, the greater chance of disease breaking out and people dying as a result of wounds sustained in the storm.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Residents pick up pieces of wood in between two cargo ships washed ashore four days after a super typhoon hit Anibong town, Tacloban city, central Philippines.

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A military helicopter prepares to land to airlift relief supplies for typhoon victims, in Tacloban city, central Philippines.

 


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