Aid flows to typhoon survivors as Philippines struggles to rebuild

By Aubrey Belford

TANAUAN, Philippines (Reuters) - Long-delayed emergency supplies flowed into the typhoon-ravaged central Philippines on Saturday, reaching desperate families who had to fend for themselves for days, as the United Nations more than doubled its estimate of homeless to nearly two million.

The aid effort was still patchy, with relief officials reporting a surge in desperate, hungry survivors trying to leave the coastal city of Ormoc, 105 km (65 miles) west of Tacloban, the worst-affected major city.

More than a week after Typhoon Haiyan killed at least 3,633 with tree-snapping winds and tsunami-like waves, hundreds of international aid workers set up makeshift hospitals and trucked in supplies. Helicopters from a U.S. aircraft carrier ferried medicine and water to remote, battered areas.

Residents of Tanauan, a fishing town about 15 km (9 miles) southeast of Tacloban, said they only started receiving substantial aid on Friday after being forced to survive on biscuits and dispose of dead bodies on their own for days.

For pictures, click http://reut.rs/19sE3uL

More than 60 people were buried behind the municipal office in the district of 50,000 people. Down the road, dozens of corpses were interred under a roundabout.

"I think (the response) was quite slow. This town was isolated. Media didn't come here. We were out of circulation for three days," said Penny Tecson, the wife of the district's mayor. She was running the recovery operation while her husband, Pel Tecson, was in Tacloban to coordinate the district's first large-scale delivery of aid from the national government.

In one ward of Tanauan, neighborhood chief Cecilio Yepes Jr. estimated his community lost nearly 10 percent of its 1,176 residents. Here, the storm surge has transformed an entire swampy plain into a rubbish pile of trees and debris. Locals have recovered and buried 30 bodies. Another 98 remain somewhere in the vast wasteland that stretches on either side of the road.

At least 800 people died in the district of Palo, which lies between Tanauan and Tacloban, national authorities said.

In Tacloban, work crews and heavy equipment cleared debris from roadsides, but side streets remained piled with the sodden, tangled remains of homes which city officials fear could reveal hundreds more bodies when they are eventually cleared.

There are 1,179 people missing, according to the national count. The official death toll only rose by 12 on Saturday, giving hope that initial local estimates of 10,000 dead were overblown.

In front of Tacloban's San Fernando Elementary School, government workers distributed sacks of aid to a restless crowd of hundreds who had spent the last week camped in shattered wooden classrooms or in a main school building with floors covered in wet black sand. Nearby, about a dozen body bags were neatly lined up by the roadside.

Rica Mobilla, an 18-year-old mother of one, said local authorities showed up two days after the disaster, handing out four kilograms of rice and a few packs of noodles for her family of thirteen. The family stretched this out with onions and garlic bought from the market.

"I'm upset. I'm not blaming anyone. If there's aid there to give out we'll receive it," she said.

President Benigno Aquino, caught off guard by the scale of the disaster, is scheduled to visit typhoon-affected areas on Sunday. He has been criticised for the slow pace of aid distribution and unclear estimates of casualties, especially in Tacloban, capital of hardest-hit Leyte province.

In Tacloban the death toll is written on a whiteboard at City Hall and bodies have been buried in mass graves since Thursday. Tacloban mayor Alfred Romualdez said many people may have been swept out to sea after the tsunami-like wall of seawater slammed into coastal areas.

SURVIVORS START TO REBUILD, HOMELESS RISE

The Philippines Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman acknowledged in a radio interview that the national relief response had been too slow to reach many areas.

"We will double our efforts to distribute relief goods because we've been hearing complaints that a lot of people have yet to receive relief goods," she said.

Arnaldo Arcadio, an emergency responder with the Catholic Relief Services group, said desperation over conditions in remote rural areas had led people to surge into Ormoc in hope of fleeing the city by ferry.

"People are fleeing in mass numbers and coming to Ormoc, where they stand in line all day to get on a ferry only to be turned away," he said.

"Ormoc is teeming with people who haven't eaten in days. They're hungry, thirsty and tired. They want to get out."

Across Tacloban, survivors have begun to rebuild. The sounds of hammers ring out. Men gather in groups to fix motorbikes or drag debris off splintered homes and wrecked streets. Most have given up searching for lost loved ones.

The number of people made homeless by the storm rose to 1.9 million, up from 900,000, the United Nations' humanitarian agency said. In Tacloban, at least 56,000 people face unsanitary conditions, according to the United Nations' migration agency.

U.S. HELICOPTERS AID RELIEF EFFORT

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday pledged 30 million pounds for international aid agencies working in the Philippines.

Japan plans to send 1,180 troops to the Philippines, its largest oversea deployment for disaster relief. Japanese destroyer Ise and transport vessel Osumi will leave for the Philippines in a few days carrying helicopters to deliver aid.

But the patchy initial aid response highlighted the need for international agencies and local governments to prepare for more frequent, more devastating natural disasters, said Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.

"This is a mindset change that must happen if we want to be able to stand up to this trend," she told Reuters in Tacloban.

U.S military assistance has been pouring into the Philippines since Thursday when the USS George Washington aircraft carrier and accompanying ships arrived off eastern Samar province, carrying 5,000 crew and more than 80 aircraft.

The Philippines is one of Washington's closest allies in Asia and a crucial partner in President Barack Obama's strategy of rebalancing U.S. military forces towards the region to counter the rising clout of China.

The Pentagon said on Friday that U.S. Navy amphibious ships will leave Okinawa in Japan "in the coming hours" carrying an additional 1,000 marines and sailors who will provide engineering equipment, relief supplies, and medical support.

The U.S. military estimates that it delivered some 623,000 pounds (283,000 kg) of U.S. relief supplies to the Philippines so far. The American military also estimated that it had moved nearly 1,200 relief workers into Tacloban and airlifted nearly 2,900 displaced people from affected areas so far.

GRAPHICS:

Before and after satellite images of damage:

http://link.reuters.com/wer64v

Map of flooded areas: http://link.reuters.com/ken64v

Population affected: http://link.reuters.com/cyz54v

Evacuations: http://link.reuters.com/vyp64v

(Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco and Eric dela Cruz and Manuel Mogato in Manila, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Ranga Sirilal in Colombo; Writing by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by John Mair and Michael Perry)

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • ToyotaPH continues it’s strong sales in February
    ToyotaPH continues it’s strong sales in February

    Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) sustains its strong sales in its February performance. Toyota’s strong performance last month was due to the  high demand of the Vios, with sales of 2,012 units and of course the rest of Toyota’s line up such as the Fortuner, Innova, Wigo, Hilux, Avanza and Corolla Altis. Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus, recorded 60 units last month. …

  • No apology, but Noy seeks understanding
    No apology, but Noy seeks understanding

    There was no apology, but President Aquino yesterday expressed regret, took “full responsibility” and appealed to the nation for “deepest understanding” for the Jan. 25 Mamasapano raid in which dozens died, including 44 police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos. “To every Filipino who has felt failure or has been hurt because of the events related to this operation, it is with abiding humility that I ask for your deepest understanding,” Aquino said in a speech before the 246 new graduates of …

  • MVP on endorsement: Thanks, I’m no politician
    MVP on endorsement: Thanks, I’m no politician

    Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan is grateful for Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s praise and presidential endorsement, but says he is not a politician. In an interview on the sidelines of the launch of the search for The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of the Philippines 2015 Wednesday night, Pangilinan dismissed the idea of running for president in the 2016 elections. “I’m not a politician, I’m just an ordinary business person,” he added. Santiago endorsed Pangilinan as a presidential candidate …

  • No Lenten break in operations vs lawless groups – AFP
    No Lenten break in operations vs lawless groups – AFP

    The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is not suspending its offensive against the Abu Sayyaf, New People’s Army (NPA) and other lawless groups during the Holy Week, an official said yesterday. Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP public affairs office chief, said the AFP leadership is leaving it up to area and division commanders whether to raise the alert status in preparation for the Holy Week. Those deployed in areas where there are ongoing law enforcement operations against terrorist groups …

  • Probe harassment vs human rights lawyer, CA orders AFP
    Probe harassment vs human rights lawyer, CA orders AFP

    The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to investigate a human rights lawyer’s claim of harassment, including surveillance, by several military officers. In a 22-page decision, the former Special Sixth Division of the appellate court granted the petition for writ of amparo and habeas data of Maria Catherine Dannug-Salucon. The CA ordered the AFP to identify the officers behind the surveillance and file charges against them. The CA ruling said …

  • Noy vows to dismantle bata-bata system in PNP
    Noy vows to dismantle bata-bata system in PNP

    President Aquino vowed yesterday to dismantle the culture of factionalism or the bata-bata system within the Philippine National Police as he continued the search for the next PNP chief. Speaking at the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) commencement exercises here, the President said the country needed solidarity among leaders and members of the police force so that the policemen would be effective protectors of Filipinos. “Our challenge to the next chief of our national police force: …

  • Envoy to expats: Retire, invest in Phl
    Envoy to expats: Retire, invest in Phl

    Retire and invest in real estate in the Philippines, especially now that the country has made it to the top 10 retirement destinations in the world. This is the message being spread by the Philippine embassy in Washington, with Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. leading the refrain in meetings with various Filipino-American communities in the US. In his talks, Cuisia said that an affordable cost of living as well as warm climate and people are just some of the things that make the Philippines a top …

  • PNPA spotlight falls on Ampatuan grandson
    PNPA spotlight falls on Ampatuan grandson

    The stigma of being a namesake of the principal suspect in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre did not prevent Cadet First Class Andal Ampatuan III from entering and graduating from the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA). Ampatuan III, now with a rank of police inspector, is a grandson of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. The younger Ampatuan was among the 246 graduates of the PNPA “Lakandula” Class of 2015. Ampatuan III’s mother is Bai Rebecca Ampatuan, a daughter of the …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options