Dingy air­port build­ing now a city’s only hos­pi­tal

Lack of doc­tors, fa­cil­i­ties com­pli­cate sit­u­a­tion in Ta­cloban

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY KRIS­TEN GELINEAU JIM GOMEZ

TA­CLOBAN, PHILIP­PINES | A run­down, sin­gle-story build­ing with filthy floors at Ta­cloban’s ru­ined air­port has be­come the area’s main med­i­cal cen­ter for vic­tims of last week’s pow­er­ful ty­phoon. It has lit­tle medicine, vir­tu­ally no fa­cil­i­ties and very few doc­tors. What it is not short of are pa­tients. Hun­dreds of in­jured peo­ple, preg­nant women, chil­dren and the el­derly have poured into the squat, white build­ing be­hind the con­trol tower since Ty­phoon Haiyan rav­aged the eastern Philip­pines on Fri­day, killing thou­sands. Doc­tors who have been deal­ing with cuts, frac­tures and preg­nancy’ com­pli­ca­tions said Wednes­day they soon ex­pect to be treat­ing more se­ri­ous prob­lems such as pneu­mo­nia, de­hy­dra­tion, di­ar­rhea and in­fec­tions.

The med­i­cal woes add to the daunt­ing tasks for au­thor­i­ties, in­clud­ing deal­ing with loot­ers and clear­ing the bot­tle­necks hold­ing up thou­sands of tons of aid ma­te­rial from com­ing in.

“The pri­or­ity has got to be: let’s get the food in, let’s get the wa­ter in. We got a lot more come in to­day. But even that won’t be enough. We re­ally need to scale up op­er­a­tion in an on­go­ing ba­sis,” U.N. hu­man­i­tar­ian chief Va­lerie Amos told re­porters af­ter tour­ing Tal­coban, the cap­i­tal of Leyte prov­ince.

Her of­fice has re­leased $25 mil­lion in emer­gency re­lief funds, ac­count­ing for a chunk of the mil­lions of dol­lars pledged by coun­tries around the world.

While the cogs of what prom­ises to be a mas­sive in­ter­na­tional aid ef­fort are be­gin­ning to turn, they are not quick enough for the 600,000 peo­ple dis­placed, many of them home­less, hun­gry and thirsty.

With the Ta­cloban air­port bat­tered and roads made im­pass­able by de­bris, very lit­tle aid has ar­rived in the city. Most of it is stuck in Manila and the nearby air­port of Cebu, a 45-minute flight away.

Many among the des­per­ate res­i­dents have re­sorted to raid­ing for food. Mobs over­ran a rice ware­house on Leyte, col­laps­ing a wall that killed eight peo­ple. Thou­sands of sacks of the grain were carted off.

A 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. cur­few was in place.

“There’s a lot of dead bod­ies out­side. There’s no wa­ter, no food,” said Dr. Vic­to­ri­ano Sam­bale, one of the dozen med­i­cal staff tend­ing to thou­sands of peo­ple at the air­port clinic.

Un­til Wednes­day, there was no anes­thetic, so open wounds had to be stitched with­out it.

“Pa­tients had to en­dure the pain,” Dr. Sam­bale said.

The air in­side the clinic was fetid. Ba­bies screamed and de­spon­dent el­derly pa­tients sat in chairs, eat­ing dry crack­ers. One woman singing a lul­laby nursed her new­born. In­tra­venous drip bags hung from nails driven into the walls and door­jambs.

The death toll rose to 2,344, ac­cord­ing a na­tional tally kept by the dis­as­ter agency. That fig­ure is ex­pected to rise.

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