“I was pleading with the soldiers. I was kneeling and begging because I have diabetes,” said Helen Cordial, whose house was destroyed in the storm. “Do they want me to die in this airport? They are stone-hearted.”
“We need help. Nothing is happening,” said Aristone Balute, an 81-year-old who also didn’t get a flight. “We haven’t eaten since yesterday afternoon.” Her clothes were soaked from the rain, and tears streamed down her face.
Preliminary death toll
- Leyte: Up to 10,000 feared dead, with an undetermined number of missing. Widespread severe damage. Communications, transport cut in many areas.
- Samar: 400 dead, 2,000 missing.
- Eastern Samar: 162 dead, 19 missing.
- Cebu: 63 dead, 8 missing.
- Iloilo: 48 dead.
- Capiz: 24 dead, 1 missing.
- Aklan: 5 dead.
- Antique: 4 dead, 8 missing.
The struggle at Tacloban’s airport is one of countless scenes of misery in the eastern Philippines since Typhoon Haiyan struck Friday. Only a tiny amount of assistance has arrived and the needs of the nearly 10 million people affected by the disaster are growing ever more urgent.
Food, water, medicine needed for relief effort
The official death toll from the disaster stood at 1,774 on Tuesday, though authorities have said they expect that to rise markedly. They fear estimates of 10,000 dead are accurate and might even be low.
As local authorities struggled to deal with the enormity of the disaster, the United Nations said it had had released $25 million in emergency funds and was launching an emergency appeal for money.
Most residents spent the night under pouring rain wherever they could — in the ruins of destroyed houses, in the open along roadsides and shredded trees. Some slept under tents brought in by the government or relief groups.
Tacloban, a city of about 220,000 people on Leyte island, bore the full force of the winds and the tsunami-like storm surges. Most of the city is in ruins, a tangled mess of destroyed houses, cars and trees. Malls, garages and shops have all been stripped of food and water by hungry residents.
‘We need more medicine. We cannot give anti-tetanus vaccine shots because we have none.’- Air Force Capt. Antonio Tamayo
Local doctors said they were desperate for medicine. Beside the ruined airport tower, at a small makeshift clinic with shattered windows, army and air force medics said they had treated around 1,000 people since the typhoon 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.”
International aid slowly arriving
International aid groups and militaries are rushing assistance to the region, but little has arrived. Government officials and police and army officers have been caught up in the disaster themselves, hampering co-ordination.
The Canadian government has sent members of its Disaster Assistance Response Team to the Philippines.
A Canadian Forces C-17 from CFB Trenton left Monday afternoon, carrying between 35 and 50 members of the team and their gear, Foreign Minister Baird told a news conference Monday.
The team was last deployed after an earthquake devastated Haiti in Jan. 2010.
Baird also announced the government will match every dollar Canadians donate to registered Canadian charities for aid to the Philippines.
“Canadians have been generous in previous devastating events like this, and we hope they’ll be generous,” he said.
The federal government has already promised up to $5 million in aid money.
The USS George Washington aircraft carrier was expected to arrive off the coast in about two days, according to the Pentagon. A similar sized U.S. ship, and its fleet of helicopters capable of dropping tonnes of water daily and evacuating wounded, was credited with saving scores of lives after the 2004 Asian tsunami. The U.S. said it is providing $20 million in immediate aid.
Several other countries, including Japan, Britain and Australia, together have donated tens of millions of dollars. The United Nations said in a statement that its $25 million would be used to pay for emergency shelter materials and household items, and for assistance with the provision of emergency health services, safe water supplies and sanitation facilities.
“We have deployed specialist teams, vital logistics support and dispatched critical supplies — but we have to do more and faster,” said UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who was flying to the country.
‘State of national calamity’ declared
Joselito Caimoy, a 42-year-old truck driver, was one of the lucky ones at Tacloban airport. He was able to get his wife, son and 3-year-old daughter on a flight out. They embraced in a tearful goodbye, but Caimoy stayed behind to guard what’s left of his home and property.
“People are just scavenging in the streets. People are asking food from relatives, friends. The devastation is too much … The malls, the grocery stories have all been looted,” he said. “They’re empty. People are hungry. And they (the authorities) cannot control the people.”
The dead, decomposing and stinking, litter the streets or remain trapped in the debris.
As many as 41 provinces were affected by the typhoon, known as Haiyan elsewhere in Asia but called Yolanda in the Philippines. It was likely the deadliest natural disaster to beset this poor Southeast Asian nation.
Authorities said they had evacuated 800,000 people head of the typhoon, but many evacuation centres proved to be no protection against the wind and rising water. The Philippine National Red Cross, responsible for warning the region and giving advice, said people were not prepared for a storm surge.
“Imagine America, which was prepared and very rich, still had a lot of challenges at the time of Hurricane Katrina, but what we had was three times more than what they received,” said Gwendolyn Pang, the group’s executive director.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III declared a “state of national calamity,” allowing the central government to release emergency funds quicker and impose price controls on staple goods. He said the two worst-hit provinces, Leyte and Samar, had witnessed “massive destruction and loss of life” but that elsewhere casualties were low.
The Philippines, an archipelago nation of more than 7,000 islands, is annually buffeted by tropical storms and typhoons, but Haiyan was an especially large catastrophe. Its winds were among the strongest ever recorded, and it appears to have killed more people than the previous deadliest Philippine storm, Thelma, in which about 5,100 people died in the central Philippines in 1991.
The country’s deadliest disaster on record was the 1976 magnitude-7.9 earthquake that triggered a tsunami in the Moro Gulf in the southern Philippines, killing 5,791 people.
Amos of the UN and Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario will launch an emergency appeal Tuesday in Manila for aid to help the almost 9.8 million people affected, the director of UN humanitarian operations said.
The storm also killed eight people in southern China and inflicted hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to farming and fishing industries, Chinese state media reported Tuesday.
Other relief efforts
- Australia announced assistance of 10 million Australian dollars ($9.4 million US). That includes the deployment of an emergency medical team, aid to the UN Flash Appeal and aid to Australian non-governmental organizations for immediate life-saving assistance.
- The United Nations World Food Program said it has allocated $2 million for the disaster response and officials joined an assessment mission to survey damage in Leyte and Samar provinces. It asks for donations at http://www.wfpusa.org.
- UNICEF said its staff in the Philippines is being repositioned to help in relief efforts and emergency supplies are being sent from Copenhagen. An airlift set to arrive on Tuesday will include water purification systems, storage equipment and sanitation supplies. Donations can be made to UNICEF at unicef.ca/haiyan.
- Japan will fly a 25-member relief team of mostly medical staff and has decided to donate $10 million for emergency aid.
- Taiwan said it will send $200,000 in aid to help with relief efforts.
- World Vision said it is putting together resources to assist 1.2 million people, including food, hygiene kits, emergency shelter and protection. It asked for one-time donations to be made at worldvision.ca.
- International Rescue Committee has dispatched an emergency team to Manila and launched a $10 million appeal. The IRC will work to determine which of its areas of expertise — from water and sanitation to education — are most needed.
- Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) said it has 15 staff in Cebu city and will send an additional 50 people in the next few days. It said it also is sending medical and relief supplies on three cargo planes. To donate, go to http://www.msf.ca/campaigns/typhoon-haiyan-relief-philippines/.