Typhoon death toll surges as aid trick­les in

Dead bod­ies still lit­ter­ing streets

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

TA­CLOBAN: “I hope it will not rise any more. I hope that is the fi­nal num­ber,” Ed­uardo del Rosario, di­rec­tor of the Philip­pines’ Na­tional Dis­as­ter Risk Re­duc­tion and Man­age­ment Coun­cil, said of the lat­est of­fi­cial death toll. “If it rises, it will prob­a­bly be very slight.”

The deaths from one of the world’s most pow­er­ful ty­phoons rose to about 4 000 yes­ter­day but the aid ef­fort was still so patchy bod­ies lay un­col­lected as res­cuers tried to evac­u­ate stricken com­mu­ni­ties across the cen­tral Philip­pines.

The pre­lim­i­nary num­ber of miss­ing as of yes­ter­day, the Red Cross said, rose to 25 000 from 22 000 a day ear­lier. That could in­clude peo­ple who have since been lo­cated, it cau­tioned.

Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino, caught off guard by the scale of the dis­as­ter, has been crit­i­cised for the slow pace of aid dis­tri­bu­tion and un­clear es­ti­mates of ca­su­al­ties, es­pe­cially in Ta­cloban, cap­i­tal of hard­est-hit Leyte prov­ince.

A no­tice board in Ta­cloban City Hall es­ti­mated the deaths at 4 000 yes­ter­day, up from 2 000 a day be­fore, in that town alone. Hours later, Ta­cloban mayor Al­fred Ro­mualdez apol­o­gised and said the toll was for the whole cen­tral Philip­pines.

The toll was com­piled by of­fi­cials who started bury­ing bod­ies in a mass grave on Thurs­day.

Mean­while, hun­dreds of in­ter­na­tional aid work­ers set up makeshift hos­pi­tals and trucked in sup­plies, while he­li­copters from a US air­craft car­rier fer­ried medicine and wa­ter to re­mote ar­eas lev­elled by Typhoon Haiyan a week ago.

“We are very, very wor­ried about mil­lions of chil­dren,” UN Chil­dren’s Fund spokesman Mar­ixie Mer­cado said.

“The re­sponse from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has not been over­whelm­ing com­pared to the mag­ni­tude of the dis­as­ter, but it has been very gen­er­ous so far,” Jens Laerke of the Of­fice for the Co-or­di­na­tion of Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs said.

Cap­tain Vic­to­ri­ano Sam­bale, a mil­i­tary doc­tor who since last weekend has treated pa­tients in a room strewn with dirt and de­bris in Ta­cloban said there had been a change in the pace of the re­sponse.

“I can see the in­ter­na­tional sup­port com­ing here,” he said.

“Day one, we treated 600plus pa­tients. Day two, we had 700-plus pa­tients. Day three we lost our count.”

But mas­sive lo­gis­ti­cal prob­lems re­main. In­jured sur­vivors waited in long lines un­der sear­ing sun for treat­ment. Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties re­ported short­ages of body bags, petrol and staff to col­lect the dead.

“Bod­ies are still ly­ing on the roads. But now at least they’re in sec­tions with Depart­ment of Health body bags,” Ian Norton, chief of a team of Aus­tralian aid work­ers, said.

“There are a lot of dead peo­ple on the street in our neigh­bour­hood, by the trash,” said Aiza Um­pacan, a 27-year-old res­i­dent of San Jose, one of the worst-hit neigh­bour­hoods.

“There are still a lot of streets that were not vis­ited by the dis­as­ter relief op­er­a­tions. They are just go­ing through the high­ways, not the in­ner streets,” he said. “The smell is get­ting worse and we ac­tu­ally have neigh­bours who have been brought to hos­pi­tal be­cause they are get­ting sick.”

The USS Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton air­craft car­rier and ac­com­pa­ny­ing ships ar­rived off east­ern Sa­mar prov­ince on Thurs­day evening, car­ry­ing 5 000 crew and 80 air­craft.

US sailors have brought food and wa­ter ashore in Ta­cloban and the Sa­mar prov­ince town of Guiuan.

Act­ing US am­bas­sador Brian Gold­beck, the chargé d’af­faires at the US Em­bassy in Manila, said the US had moved 174 000kg of emer­gency sup­plies into af­fected ar­eas and evacuated nearly 3 000 peo­ple.

A Nor­we­gian mer­chant navy train­ing ves­sel ar­rived at Ta­cloban yes­ter­day with goods from the UN World Food Pro­gramme, in­clud­ing 40 tons of rice, med­i­cal equip­ment and 6 200 body bags.

Boxes of aid were be­ing un­loaded at Ta­cloban’s badly dam­aged air­port, where more than 1 000 peo­ple queued for hours, hop­ing to evac­u­ate.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple, part of nearly a mil­lion who have been dis­placed by the storm, lined up for food and drink at an evac­uee pro­cess­ing cen­tre at Mac­tan Air Base in Cebu, the coun­try’s sec­ond-big­gest city.

About 522 evac­uees passed through the cen­tre on Thurs­day, with hun­dreds more ar­riv­ing yes­ter­day, gov­ern­ment co-ordi- na­tor, Er­linda Parame, said.

In one room, chil­dren hud­dled on a mud-streaked floor watch­ing car­toons on a small tele­vi­sion.

Nearby, Ger­ardo Alvarez, 53, sat strapped to a wheel­chair, pulling against the ban­dages that re­strained him.

“The wa­ter is com­ing! I’m go­ing to die!” he shouted.

The trau­ma­tised man had es­caped the storm surge from a sec­ond-storey win­dow of his Ta­cloban home while his sis­ter and mother, who were pray­ing down­stairs, drowned. – Reuters


HOPE: A rain­bow ap­pears above Typhoon Haiyan sur­vivors des­per­ate to catch a flight from the air­port in Ta­cloban, cap­i­tal of the Philip­pine prov­ince of Leyte, yes­ter­day.

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