Aid agency round-up: Rescuers struggling to reach remote areas struck by Typhoon Haiyan

by Astrid Zweynert | azweynert | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Saturday, 9 November 2013 18:07 GMT

Survivors wait for medical assistance after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 9, 2013. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Rescue teams are struggling to reach far-flung regions in the Philippines a day after Typhoon Haiyan churned through the archipelago, killing at least 1,200 people, according to Red Cross estimates.

CARE International said more than 831,000 people had been evacuated because of the typhoon and nearly 10 million people had been affected, with heavy rains, storm surges and winds of up to 275 kilometres per hour battering the central Philippines since Friday.

Fears are rising for people in the remote areas along the Pacific coast, which were directly in Haiyan’s path.

Among the hardest hit was coastal Tacloban in central Leyte province, where preliminary estimates suggest more than 1,000 people were killed, said Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross, as water surges rushed through the city.

"An estimated more than 1,000 bodies were seen floating in Tacloban as reported by our Red Cross teams," she told Reuters. "In Samar, about 200 deaths. Validation is ongoing."

The Philippines has yet to restore communications with officials in Tacloban, a city of about 220,000. A government official estimated at least 100 were killed and more than 100 wounded, but conceded the toll would likely rise sharply.

Christian Aid and CARE International said they had launched emergency appeals to help survivors.

Here is a summary of the emergency response by some aid agencies. If your agency is involved in the rescue effort, please email us at news.foundation@thomsonreuters.com so we can include you in the next round-up.

CARE INTERNATIONAL

CARE has launched an emergency appeal for $5 million to help some of the millions of people affected by the typhoon. CARE and its partners are mobilising supplies to provide shelter, food and water to survivors.

“We need to get lifesaving assistance to people now, but we also need to think of their future,” Celso Dulce, CARE Philippines’ disaster risk reduction advisor in Manila, said in a statement.

“Houses, crops and businesses have been destroyed, schools and roads have been damaged. Our response will also help people recover for the long term and help replace what they’ve lost. Some of these areas hit by the Super Typhoon were previously hit by landslides or earthquakes in the past few years, so they’re especially vulnerable. They need help, now.”

“We still haven’t heard from the communities on the Pacific coast. The only way to reach these areas is by mobile phone, but the lines are still down. The roads are also lost in many areas,” said Dulce. “These are difficult to reach, remote communities. In that sense, their preparedness and ability to respond to storms like this is also quite low. We’re hoping for the best, but we expect that the number of casualties and injured will rise in the coming days.”

CARE emergency teams are travelling to affected areas such as Bohol Province and Guiuan in Eastern Samar Province, where Haiyan first made landfall. Emergency teams are also on standby in Vietnam, where Typhoon Haiyan is predicted to hit early Sunday morning. If the storm stays on track, it is forecasted to also hit central and northern Vietnam, in the same areas that were affected by recent storms, potentially causing further damage to already weakened livelihoods and infrastructure.

PLAN INTERNATIONAL

"Due to communications being down, it is still difficult to know the true scale of devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan," said Carin van der Hor, Plan International's country director in the Philippines. "We are bracing ourselves for the worst. Plan staff report dead bodies blocking the road to Tacloban. This means passing through the roads is proving difficult.

"Those living in remote areas remain on our priority list, as are children. Children are always badly affected by disasters like this; some will lose their lives, or lose parents, siblings and extended families. Everything that is familiar and safe is disrupted or destroyed, including homes, schooling and family livelihoods. Some of these children will witness things no child should have to see."

Plan has prepositioned 4,000 water kits and 4,000 pieces of plastic sheeting so if roads become impassable items can be quickly distributed by the community to those in need of water and shelter, the aid agency said in a statement. These can serve about 20,000 people. In addition, there are similar numbers of kits in reserve for further distributions. Additional procurement is underway.

AMERICARES

Emergency medical aid is underway and a relief team is preparing to deploy to the Philippines, Americares said in a statement. While it may take weeks for the full extent of damages to be assessed, Americares' in-country partners report widespread devastation, power outages, storm surges and landslides.

Through its Global Pre-Positioning Initiative, AmeriCares stocks pre-positioned medicines in our warehouses and relief supplies in the hands of partners best positioned to help displaced survivors.

"This large, powerful storm poses a very real danger for everyone in its path, especially for earthquake survivors living in makeshift shelters," said Garrett Ingoglia, AmeriCares vice president of emergency response. "We are prepared to help survivors get the medicine, supplies and other critical aid they need." 

CHRISTIAN AID

Christian Aid has launched an appeal to help those affected by Typhoon Haiyan, it said in a statement. It is particularly concerned that some of the poorest communities in the islands seem to have been worst hit.

Alwynn Javier, Christian Aid senior programme officer in Manila, said based on initial reports the damage is likely to be colossal: "This is on a scale never been seen before. It has covered a vast area, including islands where the infrastructure was already limited. Air and sea ports are closed, and power lines are down, cutting off entire provinces and leaving many communities stranded.

‘We lost communication with affected areas early this morning (Friday), so will not have a clear picture of the full extent of the devastation for some time. Early reports, however, are that damage to buildings and infrastructure is extremely severe.

MEDAIR

To assess the situation and determine how it could provide emergency aid to some of the most severely impacted communities, Medair is sending its emergency staff to the affected areas in the Philippines, the aid agency said in a statement. More information will be communicated once the Medair emergency response team is on the ground and further information is available.