Aid trickling into typhoon-hit areas
Estimated 11 million Filipinos affected by storm
Typhoon survivors jostle to get a chance to board a C-130 military transport plane Tuesday in Tacloban, central Philippines. Thousands of typhoon survivors swarmed the airport on Tuesday 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. AP photo
TACLOBAN, Philippines — 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 Tuesday, seeking to be evacuated.
“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,” U.N. 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,” she said.
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, 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.”
A team from Médecins Sans Frontières, complete with medical supplies, arrived in Cebu island 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.
An Associated Press reporter drove through Tacloban for about 4 miles and saw more than 40 bodies. There was 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 lined up to get water from a hose, presumably from the city supply.
Doctors in Tacloban said they were desperate for medicine. At a small makeshift clinic with shattered windows beside the city’s ruined airport tower, 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.”
Thousands of typhoon victims were trying to get out of Tacloban. 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 the military flights out of the city.
The dead, decomposing and stinking, litter the streets or are buried in the debris. There is also growing concern about recovering corpses from 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?”
Damaged roads and other infrastructure are complicating 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.
The U.N. said it had released $25 million in emergency funds to pay for shelter materials and household items, and for assistance with the provision of health services, safe water supplies and sanitation facilities. The USS George Washington is headed toward the region with massive amounts of water and food, but the Pentagon said the aircraft carrier won’t arrive until Thursday. The U.S. also said it is providing $20 million in immediate aid. Aid totaling tens of millions of dollars has been pledged by many other countries, including Japan, Australia and Britain, which is sending a Royal Navy vessel.