Philippine Typhoon Survivor Aid Slowed by Devastation
The Philippine government began to expand the reach of relief efforts as survivors of Typhoon Haiyan complain that little aid has reached the hardest-hit areas a week after the disaster.
More than 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) of roads have been cleared near Tacloban city, which bore the brunt of the storm, and the line of supply vehicles entering Matnog port, a major staging area, was reduced to 2 kilometers, officials said today. The government is planning to start building housing in Tacloban to help some of the more than 208,000 displaced there.
“We hope this eases the victims’ anxiety and lets them know that help will reach them,” Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said, according to a transcript released by President Benigno Aquino’s office. “We are loosening up our supply routes to speed up the delivery of aid,” he said.
The typhoon killed at least 4,460 people, making it one of the deadliest in Philippine history, according to the United Nations. The storm has left almost 3.1 million displaced, the government estimates. Delays in distributing aid may undermine the authority of Aquino, who presides over an economy that has matched China’s pace as the fastest growing in the region for two quarters.
The typhoon slammed into the region with gale-force winds and storm surges on Nov. 8, flattening towns and washing away roads. Large swaths of territory still have no running water or electricity. Even with foreign relief supplies pouring in, aid efforts are being hampered by gridlock on roads, in ports and at the Tacloban airport and airstrips in Cebu, a main staging ground for the relief operation.
The number of trucks delivering aid to affected areas is “barely enough” even as roads have been cleared of debris, Luiza Carvalho, Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator of the UN in the Philippines said in an e-mail. “There are still logistical difficulties to overcome,’’ she said.
Large crowds still throng the airport at Tacloban as incoming military flights bring in teams of aid workers who fan out into affected areas. Ferries are transporting trucks from Cebu to distribute supplies as work continues to clear roads blocked by debris.
Charity Villas, 30, who lives in Tacloban, said so many survivors were still trying to get out of the airport that she traveled three hours in a van with her one-year-old daughter to reach Ormoc, where she was able to board a plane to Cebu.
“To be honest with you, I had to do things that I wasn’t supposed to do. I had to be part of the looters for her to get some milk,” Villas said. “I had to dig through the destroyed pharmacy just to loot and look for a paracetamol, those basic medicines, and I feel so bad that I have not received any assistance from the government. We’ve been waiting and it’s already more than a week.”
Relief operations remain a challenge as the government and the military struggled to clear aid logjams, Aquino’s spokeswoman Abigail Valte said in a radio address today.
“We are exploring other routes for distribution,” Valte said. “Delivery is a continuing challenge.”
Aquino plans to make his second visit to the area devastated by the storm tomorrow and dozens more army trucks were on the way to the region, the military said today in an e-mailed statement.
“There are more people every day,” said Liam Pido, 18, a student who left on an Australian military aircraft along with 16 others in his extended family. “Uncountable. Can’t be counted.”
It’s taking two days or longer for trucks from Manila to arrive to the hard-hit areas of the central Philippines, including Tacloban, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, who is overseeing aid preparations in Manila, said today. Each truck carries 2,500 relief packs. Aquino targets 1.1 million packs prepared in the Manila hub every week to provide for 275,000 families.
“We have supplies already, our challenge is trucking,” Purisima said.
Foreign governments have been increasing their pledges as the scope of the destruction becomes more clear. The U.K. committed an additional 30 million pounds ($48 million) to the relief effort today, bringing its total pledge to 50 million pounds.
The Philippines had received 5.4 billion pesos ($124 million) in international assistance as of noon yesterday, Raul Hernandez, a Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in an e-mail. The UN said it has so far received $104 million of $301 million in aid that’s been pledged.
Doctors from Medecins Sans Frontieres began treating patients in some locations in the central Philippines, the group said in a statement yesterday on its website. Apart from treating the injured, the group is handling a growing number of people suffering from pneumonia and diarrhea, the group said in the statement.
The USS George Washington, an aircraft carrier with more than 5,000 personnel and more than 80 aircraft, has arrived in the Philippines and is ferrying aid into hard-hit areas. A U.K. C-17 transport plane with supplies arrived this afternoon, with the HMS Illustrious, another aircraft carrier, due to arrive on Nov. 25. The USNS Mercy, a hospital ship based in San Diego, is on standby to travel to the Philippines, should the government request more help.
An Australian team treating survivors at Tacloban airport was setting up a deployable 50-bed field hospital able to treat 4,000 people.
“It has been slow from the perspective of the people who have been patiently, frustratedly waiting for the support that they so desperately need, but the pace of activity of our colleagues on the ground has been phenomenal,” John Ging, an official at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters yesterday in New York.
The World Food Program has distributed rice rations to 170,000 people over the past week and is delivering high-energy biscuits to people in Leyte province, according to an e-mailed statement.
About 320 metric tons of rice are being delivered to Tacloban to feed more than 106,000 families, the WFP said. A shipment of 2,000 metric tons of food and other relief items was scheduled to leave Cebu for Tacloban later, according to the statement.
About 20 percent of Tacloban’s water supply has been restored after the U.S. and Philippines military provided fuel to restart some generators, Unicef director of emergency programs Ted Chaiban said yesterday.
The storm left 12,501 people injured and 1,186 missing, with more than 9.8 million people affected, of whom 3.06 million were displaced, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s 6 p.m. bulletin. Damage to infrastructure and farm output is now estimated at 10.3 billion pesos, the government said in the bulletin.
About 5 million children were affected by the storm and require immediate support, Unicef’s Chaiban told reporters in New York yesterday.
Philippine economic growth this quarter may slow to a range of 4.1 percent to 5.9 percent as a result of the storm, Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said in a mobile-phone message Nov. 14.
The government is preparing a reconstruction plan which includes a proposal to boost infrastructure spending to 3.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2014, from an earlier plan of 3 percent, Balisacan separately told reporters in Manila yesterday. Rebuilding will be “very, very costly,” he said.
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