16 Nov 2013

Aid gets through to typhoon survivors

9:01 pm on 16 November 2013

Substantial food and medical aid has finally begun reaching desperate survivors of Typhoon Haiyan but humanitarian groups are warning of huge challenges in accessing devastated, remote island communities.

Millions in the worst-hit central Philippines islands of Leyte and Samar have been left hurt, homeless and hungry, with no power or water.

Doctors say they will have mobile surgical units in the devastated city of Tacloban by the end of the weekend, AFP reports.

The United States military has been delivering food, water and shelter items and has airlifted almost 2900 people to safety.

However, relief officials have described conditions in the main evacuation centre in Tacloban as appalling, with a lack of proper sanitation.

The United Nations says 2.5 million people still "urgently" require food assistance. It estimates more than 13 million people have been affected by the typhoon, including five million children.

The first of the dead from the typhoon have meanwhile been taken to a mass grave for burial.

Bodies lying on the foreshore at the heart of Tacloban city were photographed and labelled according to their gender, before being placed on a truck and moved to a gravesite at a cemetery.

The ABC reports many of the dead still lie under mountains of debris on the islands of Leyte and Samar.

There is still conjecture over the death toll, with United Nations estimates far higher than those of the Philippines government in Manila, which puts the number of dead at 3600. Estimates in the devastated areas are much higher.

A BBC correspondent says the enormity of the disaster is still unfolding.

President Benigno Aquino, who was caught off guard by the scale of the disaster, has been criticised for the slow pace of aid distribution and unclear estimates of casualties.

Jens Laerke of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says the response from the international community has been very generous, but not overwhelming compared to the magnitude of the disaster.

The United Nations Children's Fund says it is very, very worried about millions of children.

Regional police chief Elmer Soria, who said last Sunday that 10,000 people might have been killed, has been removed from his position.