Slow start to relief effort after typhoon
Police guard stores to prevent looting
TACLOBAN, PHILIPPINES | Thousands of typhoon survivors swarmed the airport here on Tuesday seeking a flight out, but only a few hundred made it, leaving behind a shattered, rain-lashed city short of food and water and littered with countless bodies.
Four days after Typhoon Haiyan struck the eastern Philippines, only a trickle of assistance has made to affected communities. Authorities estimated the storm killed 10,000 or more across a vast swath of the country. Millions are without shelter or food.
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.
Just after dawn Tuesday, two Philippine Air Force C-130s arrived at its destroyed airport along with several commercial and private flights. More than 3,000 people who camped out at the building surged onto the tarmac past a broken iron fence to get on the aircraft. Just a dozen soldiers and several police held them back.
Mothers raised their babies high above their heads in the rain, in hopes of being prioritized. One woman in her 30s lay on a stretcher, shaking uncontrollably. Only a small number managed to board.
“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 stonehearted.”
Doctors said they were desperate for medicines. Beside the ruined airport tower, at a small makeshift clinic with shattered windows, army and air force medics said they had treated about 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 groups and militaries are rushing assistance to the region, but little has arrived yet. Government officials and police and army officers have all been caught up in the disaster themselves, hampering coordination.
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 tons of water daily and evacuating wounded, was credited with saving scores of lives after the 2004 Asian tsunami.
The dead, decomposing and stinking, litter the streets or remain trapped in the debris. At a small naval base, eight swollen corpses — including that of a baby — were submerged in water brought in by the storm. Officers had yet to move them, saying they had no body bags or electricity to preserve them.
The official death remained at 942. However, with shattered communications and transportation links, the final count was likely days away, and presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said “we pray” it does not surpass 10,000.
“I don’t believe there is a single structure that is not destroyed or severely damaged in some way — every single building, every single house,” U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy said after taking a helicopter flight over Tacloban on Monday.
He spoke on the tarmac at the airport, where two Marine C-130 cargo planes were unloading supplies.