Typhoon Haiyan: Aid trickling into hard-hit areas in Philippines

A trooper carries an elderly woman to a military plane. Photo / AP
A trooper carries an elderly woman to a military plane. Photo / AP

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Desperately needed food, water and medical aid are only trickling into this city that took the worst blow from Typhoon Haiyan, while thousands of victims jammed the damaged airport, seeking to be evacuated.

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"We need help. Nothing is happening. We haven't eaten since yesterday afternoon," pleaded a weeping Aristone Balute, an 81-year-old woman who failed to get a flight out of Tacloban for Manila, the capital. Her clothes were soaked from a pouring rain and tears streamed down her face.

Five days after what could be the Philippines' deadliest disaster, aid is coming - pallets of supplies and teams of doctors are waiting to get into Tacloban - but the challenges of delivering the assistance means few in the stricken city have received help.

"There is a huge amount that we need to do. We have not been able to get into the remote communities," UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said in Manila, launching an appeal for $301 million to help the more than 11 million people estimated to be affected by the storm.

"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," she said. Her office said she planned to visit the city.

An Associated Press reporter drove through the town for around 7 kilometres Tuesday and saw more than 40 bodies. He saw no evidence of any organised 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," UN 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 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."

A trooper carries an elderly woman to a military plane. Photo / AP
A trooper carries an elderly woman to a military plane. Photo / AP

"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.

Militants shot dead after aid truck attack

Philippine troops deployed to stop looters have killed two communist insurgents who attacked an aid convoy en route to typhoon-devastated Tacloban, the military says.

Bodies still litter the streets of the city, where the United Nations fears 10,000 people could have died when the category-five Haiyan struck on Friday.

Thousands of people whose homes were destroyed by one of the most powerful typhoons on record were facing yet another night of misery on Tuesday, many without shelter, as soldiers tried to restore order and allow much-needed aid to percolate through.

Some of that aid fell victim to one of the Philippines' long-running insurgencies when 15 communist rebels ambushed trucks on their way to the storm-wracked region, a local commander told AFP.

"There were no casualties on the government side,'' Lieutenant Colonel Joselito Kakilala said, adding that two members of the New People's Army, the militant wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, were killed and another wounded.

In the city itself, a curfew is in force as armoured vehicles and elite security forces patrol streets where famished survivors have raided stores and ransacked other aid convoys.

Tacloban - a city of 220,000 residents - has been the scene of the worst pillaging.

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Survivors reported gangs stealing consumer goods including televisions and washing machines from small businesses.

As night fell in the ravaged city, heavily armed policemen manned checkpoints and continued to prowl for looters.

Manila police officer Julian Bagawayan said 150 members of his riot police squad were flown to Tacloban to enforce a nighttime curfew.

"Our mission is to help the police of Tacloban because they are also victims. We all know the government is down,'' he said, his assault rifle in his hand.

"We are here to stop people looting properties and breaking into homes.''

Official death toll reaches 1,744 in Philippines

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.

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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."

Thousands try to leave on flights

Thousands of typhoon survivors swarmed the airport in Tacloban seeking a flight out, but only a few hundred made it, leaving behind a shattered, rain-lashed city short of food and water and littered with countless bodies.

Four days after Typhoon Haiyan struck the eastern Philippines, assistance is only just beginning to arrive. Authorities estimate the storm killed 10,000 or more across a vast area of the country, and displaced around 660,000 others. The official toll is 1700. 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. Garages and shops have all been stripped of food and water by hungry residents.

The United Nations said it had released US$25 million ($30 million) in emergency funds and was launching an emergency appeal for money.

Two Philippine Air Force C-130s arrived at Tacloban's destroyed airport along with several commercial and private flights. More than 3000 people who camped out at the building surged onto the tarmac past a broken iron fence to get on the aircraft. Just a dozen soldiers and several police held them back.

Mothers raised their babies high above their heads in the rain, in hopes of being given priority. One woman in her 30s lay on a stretcher, shaking uncontrollably. Only a small number managed to board.

"I was pleading with the soldiers. I was kneeling and begging because I have diabetes," said Helen Cordial, whose house was destroyed in the storm. "Do they want me to die in this airport? They are stone-hearted." Most residents spent the night outside in the pouring rain sleeping wherever they could in the ruins of destroyed houses or along roadsides among shredded trees. Some slept under tents brought in by the Government or relief groups.

Local doctors say they are desperate for medicines. Beside the ruined airport tower, at a small makeshift clinic with shattered windows, army and air force medics said they had treated around 1000 people since the typhoon for cuts, bruises, lacerations, or deep wounds.

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

International aid groups and militaries are rushing assistance to the region, but little has arrived. Government officials and police and army officers have all been caught up in the disaster themselves, hampering co-ordination.

Joselito Caimoy, a 42-year-old truck driver, was one of the lucky ones at Tacloban Airport. He was able to get his wife, son and 3-year-old daughter on a flight out. They embraced in a tearful goodbye.

Infrastructure damage

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.

United Nations appeal

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.

The aircraft carrier USS George Washington is headed toward the region with massive amounts of water and food. The US also said it is providing $20 million in immediate aid.

Aid totalling tens of millions of dollars has been pledged by many other countries, including Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Britain, which is sending a Royal Navy vessel with aid.

For now, relief has come to a lucky few, including Joselito Caimoy, a 42-year-old truck driver. He was able to get his wife, son and 3-year-old daughter on a flight out of Tacloban. They embraced in a tearful goodbye, but Caimoy stayed behind to guard what's left of his home and property.

"People are just scavenging in the streets. People are asking food from relatives, friends. The devastation is too much ... the malls, the grocery stories have all been looted, "he said. "They're empty. People are hungry. And they (the authorities) cannot control the people."

The dead, decomposing and stinking, litter the streets or remain trapped in the debris.

The storm also killed eight people in southern China and inflicted hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to farming and fishing industries, Chinese state media reported Tuesday.

Deadly natural disasters of the past decade

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Typhoon Haiyan is feared to have killed more than 10,000 people in the Philippines. Here are the natural disasters in the last decade that had higher death tolls:

- March 11, 2011: A magnitude-9.0 earthquake off northeastern Japan causes a tsunami that sweeps onto the coast. About 19,000 people are killed and three nuclear reactors melt at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant.

- January 12, 2010: A 7.0 earthquake devastates Haiti's capital and surrounding cities, killing 314,000 people.

- May 12, 2008: A 7.9 temblor in China's Sichuan province kills 87,000 people. A disproportionate number of them were children killed when their shoddily built schools collapsed.

- May 2, 2008: The storm surge from Cyclone Nargis washes up densely populated areas around the Irrawaddy River delta in Myanmar, washing away whole farming villages. Around 138,000 people died.

- October 8, 2005: A 7.6 earthquake kills about 80,000 people in northwestern Pakistan and Kashmir.

- December 26, 2004: A 9.1 earthquake off western Indonesia triggers a tsunami in the Indian Ocean, killing 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

- December 26, 2003: A 6.6 earthquake flattens the historic city of Bam in southeastern Iran, and some 26,000 people are killed.

To donate

Red Cross: redcross.org.nz
World Vision: worldvision.org.nz
Unicef New Zealand: unicef.org.nz
Tear Fund: tearfund.org.nz
Save the Children: savethechildren.org.nz
Oxfam: oxfam.org.nz

- AP/AFP

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