11 Nov 2013

Relief efforts hampered in typhoon's wake

10:16 pm on 11 November 2013

Relief operations in the Philippines are being hampered by the debris and destruction that has been left in the wake of a huge typhoon.

Four million people are thought to have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan and 10,000 people are believed to have been killed in the city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte alone when huge waves swept away coastal villages on Friday. Hundreds of thousands of people have been made homeless.

The Philippines government said on Monday it may impose martial law or a state of emergency as authorities try to cope with the aftermath.

Soldiers have tried to quell looting and many roads are blocked by debris, choking vital supply routes, and rescue workers are grappling with the scale of death and destruction.

Survivors in Tacloban have been relying on supplies ferried in on military transport planes, the ABC reports. People are walking to the airport to get large containers of water and rice, but they still say that there is not enough.

President Benigno Aquino said on Sunday that ships are now stationed off Tacloban and the amount of supplies should increase. United States marines assessed the region on Monday.

Governments around the world and private aid agencies are starting to send aid. However, relief workers are yet to reach some towns and villages in the central Philippines, the BBC reports.

The United Nations says relief operations are being hampered because roads, bridges and airports have been destroyed or are covered in wreckage.

Richard Gordon, the head of the Red Cross in the Philippines, described the situation as chaotic. "There's an awful lot of casualties, a lot of people dead all over the place, a lot of destruction. It's hard to bring in any supplies. It's only now that we're able to get in."

In many areas there is no clean water, no electricity and very little food. Thousands of troops have been deployed, but the work is being hampered by debris and the condition of roads. In some areas, the dead are being buried in mass graves.

Christopher de Bono from UNICEF says the agency is desperately trying to get supplies to children affected by the typhoon - many of whom may be homeless and have no access to clean water, food or medicine.

Mr de Bono told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Monday that reaching the worst affected areas is difficult, as the only access currently is on military flights or helicopters.

He says they are working as quickly as conditions allow to get assistance to children and have experts and supplies squeezing onto every flight they can.

Haiyan lashes China and Vietnam

At least three people have died and thousands have been relocated as a weakened Typhoon Haiyan brought gales and torrential rain to southern China's Hainan province and Vietnam on Monday.

The typhoon is now classed as a tropical storm and has affected about 480,000 people in the southern island province of Hainan, DPA reports.

Three people died and 39,000 were relocated as the storm destroyed dozens of homes and damaged hundreds more across Hainan, the provincial Civil Affairs Bureau reported.

Seven crew from a cargo vessel were missing off Hainan, close to Vietnam, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The storm also affected the nearby southern Chinese provinces of Guangxi and Guangdon.

The storm made landfall in Vietnam's Quang Ninh province, about 160km north of Hanoi, at 5am on Monday (local time) with winds estimated at 118-133km/h, the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting said.

There were no direct casualties in Vietnam, but about 10 people died and 67 were injured in preparations, many from falls as they tried to secure their roofs from the coming storm, the National Committee for Floods Prevention and Control said.

Boat trips were suspended in popular tourist destination of Ha Long Bay, but were expected to resume on Tuesday. It is high season for the bay, with about 2000 foreign tourists visiting daily.

Fears another storm could be coming

Oxfam says it is difficult getting aid to people in the Philippines because of the scale of the destruction.

Director Justin Morgan told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Monday his teams are reporting that up to 80% of buildings are uninhabitable. Mr Morgan said providing aid is a major challenge because most airports are closed.

People also fear another storm could be on the way. Mr Morgan said the typhoon season in the Philippines has started early and the country is bracing itself for more storms to come.

A senior Unicef official in the Philippines, Timothy Grieve, said the destruction is unprecedented and the removal of bodies is a major priority.

Mr Grieve told Morning Report on Monday the bodies are not only a hygiene risk, but also very disturbing for the communities.