13 Nov 2013

Typhoon survivors growing more desperate

10:36 pm on 13 November 2013

People are growing increasingly desperate for food, water and medical supplies in typhoon-hit parts of the Philippines, a congressman warns.

Nearly a week after Typhoon Haiyan devastated parts of the country, governments and aid agencies are still working to get urgent supplies to millions of people affected. Roads remain blocked and survivors are afraid for their safety.

Eight people were killed on Tuesday after survivors stormed a rice warehouse, causing a wall of the building to collapse near the devastated coastal city of Tacloban on the eastern island of Leyte.

The United Nations says more than 11 million people may have been affected and 673,000 displaced by Haiyan which hit last Friday, the BBC reports.

Congressman Martin Romualdez, from Leyte, said a greater sense of urgency is needed to get aid to people. He said said a lack of law and order is hampering the distribution of supplies and described the situation as dire.

Police and soldiers have been unable to stop looters, who took more than 100,000 sacks of rice from the government facility in Alangalang, Leyte, said Rex Estoperez, a spokesman for the National Food Authority.

The main airports in the cities of Cebu and Tacloban are open and supplies from the United States and Britain are finally arriving, but most are getting stuck there.

Constant rain and strong winds mean many of those supplies including food, clean water and medicine simply can't be moved on by smaller planes to the tens of thousands of people who need it.

Troops have killed two communist insurgents who attacked an aid convoy on its way to Tacloban.

Death toll lower, says president

Philippine President Benigno Aquino told CNN on Tuesday that the death toll may be lower than first thought.

The widely reported figure of 10,000 killed may have come from officials facing "emotional trauma", he said, and the real figure was more likely up to 2500. However, he said 29 municipalities had yet to be contacted to establish the number of victims there.

Other officials have since contradicted Mr Aquino, saying the earlier estimates are realistic.

Latest figures released by disaster management officials suggest more than 80,000 houses have been destroyed.

Mr Aquino warned that storms like Haiyan - known in the Philippines as Yolanda - were becoming more frequent, and there should be "no debate" that climate change was happening.

UN appeal

The United Nations has launched an appeal for more than $US300 million to help thousands of people in areas hit by the typhoon.

It is airlifting 66 tons of emergency supplies from Denmark and the body's humanitarian co-ordinator, Valerie Amos, has arrived in Manila to head the aid operation.

Ms Amos said the storm was far worse than expected, and the survivors, who are now facing thunderstorms and torrential rain, are absolutely desperate.

A US aircraft carrier set sail for the Philippines on Tuesday to help in relief efforts.

The nuclear-powered USS George Washington was joined by four other US Navy ships and should arrive in two to three days, the Pentagon said.

Britain is also sending a navy warship with equipment to make drinking water from seawater and a military transport aircraft.

Aid agency Oxfam says the heavy rain is making it virtually impossible to get supplies to affected areas.

Oxfam's response manager in the Philippines, Pauline Ballaman, told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Wednesday roads are either cut off or strewn with rubbish and parts of the country are still being battered by rain.

Ms Ballaman said she hoped it would be a matter of days rather than weeks for aid to get to the worst hit areas.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says communication faults in the Philippines continue to hamper its attempts to contact all 376 New Zealanders registered as living there. However, so far the ministry knows of no New Zealander who has been killed or injured in the typhoon.