Aid workers struggling to reach Philippine typhoon survivors outside main city

by Thin Lei Win | @thinink | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Sunday, 10 November 2013 11:42 GMT

A boy carrying a plastic bottle of water walks past a car which slammed into damaged houses after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

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Concerns are growing about survivors that have not been reached yet after super typhoon Haiyan killed at least 10,000 people in the Philippines and destroyed up to 80 percent of the area in its path

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Concerns are growing over the welfare of tens of thousands of people two days after one of the most powerful storms ever recorded hit the central Philippines as aid workers are struggling to reach survivors outside the region’s main city.

Super typhoon Haiyan killed at least 10,000 people, a senior police official said on Sunday, and destroyed about 70 to 80 percent of the area in its path as it tore through the Leyte province on Friday.

Most of the deaths appear to have been caused by surging sea water strewn with debris that many described as similar to a tsunami, levelling houses and drowning hundreds of people. Close to half a million people were displaced by the storm and some 4.4 million were affected in one of the worst natural disasters to hit the typhoon-prone Southeast Asian nation, according to the government

Logistical problems, such as roads choked with debris from fallen trees and tangled power lines, are hampering the ability of aid workers to provide relief as well as assess damage outside Leyte’s capital Tacloban. 

"We're growing increasingly concerned about people we're not able to reach," said Ola Fagan, spokesperson of the United Nations humanitarian agency (OCHA) in the Philippines. 

Witnesses and officials have spoken of hundreds of bodies piled on the sides of roads and pinned under wrecked houses in Tacloban, about 580 km (360 miles) southeast of Manila. 

The road from the airport to Tacloban has been cleared but a U.N. team has not been able to leave the coastal city, Fagan told Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Manila. 

"You're talking about large swathes of very vulnerable people. There's been so much damage done to their homes, the infrastructure, their agriculture, how they make their living, to any of their belongings," she said. 

"The worry there is that we don't know the extent of the damage. We don't know if there's another Tacloban there,” she added. 

Water-borne diseases are also a concern as the rainy season is continuing, Fagan said. 

There have also been reports of looting as mobs attacked trucks loaded with food, tents and water. 


The situation is also dire in Leyte municipality, about two hours’ drive from Tacloban, said Nicola Jones, spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

“The situation here is bad as well. There's no power, no water and the food supply is quite low,” she said. 

“It’s a massive area that’s been affected so there are huge needs. We're trying to get access but it's difficult because the road has been blocked from the Leyte port to Tacloban,” she added. 

In a statement released Sunday, Oxfam said disasters such as Haiyan compounded the difficulties poor people already face. 

The area affected by the storm is primarily an agricultural region where one out of three people are considered poor, said Marie Madamba-Nuñez, spokesperson for Oxfam in the Philippines.

“With no assets, little savings and no steady incomes, the Philippines’ poorest people are small farmers and fishers whose livelihoods cannot withstand a disaster,” she said.

The European Union said on Sunday it had committed 3 million euros ($4 million) for urgent humanitarian assistance in the Philippines.

Several aid agencies have launched emergency appeals, including Christian Aid and CARE International. 

Aid workers are already stretched responding to several disasters and conflicts in the Philippines this year. 

On Oct. 15, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake killed 190 people, displaced 380,000 and affected over 3 million in the tourist destinations of Bohol and the nearby Cebu islands. 

In Zamboanga in the south, over 75,000 people remain displaced following September fighting between government troops and a breakaway faction of Muslim rebels.

At least four typhoons have caused widespread flooding and damage since August.


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