Wednesday 17 January 2018

Worst-hit towns and cities remain cut off from the outside world

Kathy Marks

Tens of millions of dollars in aid have been pledged for the typhoon-ravaged Philippines by the international community – but most of it has yet to translate into food, water, medicines and shelter for increasingly desperate survivors.

"It has been four days (since Typhoon Haiyan struck)," said Joan Lumbre-Wilson, a resident of the ruined city of Tacloban.

"We want water and food . . . We are emotionally drained and physically exhausted. There are many babies and children who need attention."

US military planes began flying supplies into Tacloban, on the island of Leyte, yesterday – the first sign of an escalation in the painfully slow relief effort. The massive storm surges whipped up by Haiyan destroyed roads, bridges and airports, hampering aid operations. Some of the worst-hit towns and cities remain cut off from the outside world.

The typhoon, which was downgraded to a tropical storm yesterday as it entered China after crossing Vietnam, is believed to have killed at least 10,000 people on Leyte alone.

Threatening to further hamper relief efforts is a new storm approaching the southern and central Philippines. Government weather forecasters said the tropical depression could bring fresh floods to typhoon-affected areas.

"Britain is contributing £10m and HMS Daring, currently deployed near Singapore, will shortly be heading at full speed towards the disaster zone with further support from an RAF C17 which will be a powerful help to the relief operation," said British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday.

Displaced and destitute survivors have been scavenging for food, and in some cases resorting to looting – although supermarkets are said to have already been stripped bare.

Exacerbating their distress are the bodies lying by the roadside, shrouded with scraps of material and decomposing in the fierce heat. While mass graves have been dug, many of the dead still await burial.

Eyewitnesses reported eight bloated corpses, including that of a baby, submerged in seawater near a naval base.

Officers said they had no body bags or electricity to preserve the corpses.

Stories of survival and loss continued to emerge from the disaster zone. Mirasol Saoyi and her husband were "flushed" out on to the street by huge waves which washed away their home as the typhoon powered across the central Philippines last Friday.

"My husband tied us together, but still we got separated among the debris," she said.

"I saw many people drowning, screaming and going under ... I haven't found my husband."

A city of 220,000, Tacloban was almost flattened by Haiyan, with only a few concrete buildings still standing. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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