First mass grave is quickly filled
Responders make limited progress as aid starts to reach survivors
TACLOBAN, PHILIPPINES | The air was thick with the stench of decay as sweating workers lowered the plastic coffins one by one into a grave the size of an Olympic swimming pool.
Scores of unidentified bodies were interred together Thursday in a hillside cemetery without any ritual — the first mass burial in this city shattered last week by Typhoon Haiyan.
Six days after the disaster, some progress was being made in providing food, water and medical aid to the half-million people displaced in the Philippines.
Massive bottlenecks blocking the distribution of international assistance have begun to clear.
Soldiers on trucks gave out rice and water, and chainsaw-wielding teams cut debris from blocked roads to clear the way for relief trucks in Tacloban, the capital of the hardest-hit Leyte province.
Thousands of people continued to swarm Tacloban’s damaged airport, desperate to leave or to get treatment at a makeshift medical center.
“We know the gravity of our countrymen’s suffering, and we know that, now more than ever, all of us are called on to do whatever we can to help alleviate our countrymen’s suffering,” President Benigno S. Aquino III said.
Authorities say 2,357 people have been confirmed dead.
That figure is expected to rise when more data are collected around the disaster zone.
The massive flow of international aid was bolstered by Thursday’s arrival of the USS George Washington in the Philippine Sea near the Gulf of Leyte. The aircraft carrier will set up a position off the coast of Samar Island to assess the damage and provide medical and water supplies, the 7th Fleet said.
The carrier and its strike group together brought 21 helicopters to the area, which can help reach the most inaccessible parts of the disaster zone.
The United Kingdom also is sending an aircraft carrier, the HMS Illustrious, with seven helicopters and facilities to produce fresh water, Britain’s Defense Ministry said. The ship is expected to reach the area around Nov. 25.
The U.S. has a half-dozen other ships in the area, along with two P-3 aircraft that are being used to survey the damage, the 7th Fleet said.
Typhoon Haiyan survivors walk amid ruins of buildings in Maraboth, Philippines, on Thursday. The storm, one of the most powerful on record, destroyed tens of thousands of buildings and displaced hundreds of thousands of people when it hit last week.
In this photo provided by the U.S. Navy, sailors prepare a transport aircraft on the deck of the USS George Washington.
Survivors line up for fuel in Tacloban. Aid has been slow to reach the half-million people displaced by Typhoon Haiyan.