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

(Continued from page 1)

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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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The official death toll from the disaster rose to 1,774 on Tuesday, though authorities have said they expect that to rise markedly. They fear estimates of 10,000 dead are accurate and might be low. More than 9 million people have been affected across a large swath of the country, many of them made homeless.

Tacloban, a city of about 220,000 people on Leyte island, bore the full force of the winds and the tsunami-like storm surges. Most of the city is in ruins, a tangled mess of destroyed houses, cars and trees. Malls, garages and shops have all been stripped of food and water by hungry residents.

The loss of life appears to be concentrated in Tacloban and surrounding areas, including a portion of Samar island that is separated from Leyte island by a strait. It is possible that other devastated areas are so isolated they have not yet been reached.

In Cebu, to the southwest, the Philippine air force has been sending three C-130s back and forth to Tacloban from dawn to dusk, and had delivered 400,000 pounds of relief supplies by Tuesday, Lt. Col. Marciano Jesus Guevara said. A lack of electricity in Tacloban means planes can't land there at night.

Guevara said the C-130s have transported nearly 3,000 civilians out of the disaster zone, and that the biggest problem in Tacloban is a lack of clean drinking water.

"Water is life," he said. "If you have water with no food, you'll survive."

There is also growing concern about recovering corpses that are still rotting throughout the disaster zone. "It really breaks your heart when you see them," said Maj. Gen. Romeo Poquiz, commander of the 2nd Air Division.

"We're limited with manpower, the expertise, as well as the trucks that have to transport them to different areas for identification," Poquiz said. "Do we do a mass burial, because we can't identify them anymore? If we do a mass burial, where do you place them?"

Most Tacloban residents spent the night under pouring rain wherever they could — in the ruins of destroyed houses, in the open along roadsides and shredded trees. Some slept under tents brought in by the government or relief groups.

"There is no help coming in. They know this is a tragedy. They know our needs are urgent. Where is the shelter?" said Aristone Balute's granddaughter, Mylene, who was also at the airport. "We are confused. We don't know who is in charge."

Damaged roads and other infrastructure are complicating the relief efforts. Government officials and police and army officers are in many cases among the victims themselves, hampering coordination. The typhoon destroyed military buildings that housed 1,000 soldiers in Leyte province.

There were other distractions, including a jailbreak in Tacloban. Army Brig. Gen. Virgilio Espineli, the deputy regional military commander, said Tuesday he wasn't sure how many of the 600 inmates fled.

At Matnog, the port for ferries leaving to Samar island, dozens of trucks piled high with aid were waiting to cross. In the capital, Manila, soldiers tossed pallets of water, medical supplies and foods into C-130 planes bound for the disaster area.

The United Nations said it had released $25 million in emergency funds to pay for emergency shelter materials and household items, and for assistance with the provision of emergency health services, safe water supplies and sanitation facilities. It's launching an appeal for more aid.

(Continued on page 3)

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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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