Slow start to re­lief ef­fort af­ter ty­phoon

Po­lice guard stores to pre­vent loot­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY TODD PIT­MAN JIM GOMEZ THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

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.

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