AID agencies engaged in a race against time to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan yesterday told of their frustration at transport and weather problems hampering the vast relief effort.
Some rescue workers spent a fourth day in the Philippines unable to reach communities devastated by the disaster as the United Nation’s refugee agency said that women and children were begging on the streets.
The UN launched a £190 million appeal to bolster relief efforts in the stricken country, and said that more than 800,000 people are now thought to have been displaced by the huge storm surge.
The official death toll yesterday rose to 1,774, although authorities expect that number to rise dramatically amid fears at least 10,000 perished.
The desperate search for survivors has been thwarted on several fronts, with poor weather and widespread transportation problems.
Rescue workers have told of difficulties in reaching survivors after Typhoon Haiyan struck the eastern Philippine coast.
A team from Medecins Sans Frontieres, which arrived on Cebu Island on Saturday complete with medical supplies had hoped to board a flight to the eastern city of Tacloban yet, as of last night, they remained unable to reach the ravaged region. A spokesman said it was “difficult to tell” when they would be able to leave.
In Tacloban, thousands of people desperate to escape camped at the airport and ran on to the tarmac when planes came in, surging past a broken iron fence and a few soldiers and police trying to control them. Only a few hundred made it aboard. “We need help. Nothing is happening,” said Aristone Balute, an 81-year-old who did not get on a flight out of the city. “We haven’t eaten since yesterday afternoon.”
Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the situation on the ground was become increasingly fraught, with unconfirmed reports of people destroying bank teller machines and robbing relief supplies.
He added: “The current situation is putting people already vulnerable at particular risk. Women and children are begging on the streets for donations, exposing themselves to risk of abuse and exploitation.”
Aid totalling tens of millions of dollars has been pledged by many other countries, including Japan, Australia and Britain, which is sending HMS Daring, a Scotstoun-built Type-45 destroyer, along with aid.
The Scottish Government said yesterday it will donate £600,000 to the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee appeal, which raised £1.5m in donations in the 15 hours after its launch.
External affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop said people should “dig deep” and give all they can to help the millions of people affected by the typhoon.
The American aircraft carrier USS George Washington is also heading toward the region with massive amounts of water and food, but the Pentagon said it will not arrive until tomorrow. The US said it is providing £12.6m in immediate aid.
Valerie Amos, the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, in Manila to co-ordinate the aid operation, said: “There is a huge amount that we need to do. We have not been able to get into the remote communities.
“Even in Tacloban, because of the debris and the difficulties with logistics and so on, we have not been able to get in the level of supply that we would want to. We are going to do as much as we can to bring in more.”
Edwin Lacierda, a spokesman for president Benigno Aquino, said relief goods were getting into the city, and the supply should increase in coming days now that the airport and a bridge to the island were open.
Doctors in Tacloban said they were desperate for medicine. Beside the ruined airport tower, at a small makeshift clinic with shattered windows, army and air force medics said they had treated about 1,000 people for cuts, bruises and deep wounds.
“It’s overwhelming,” said air force Captain Antonio Tamayo. “We need more medicine. We cannot give anti-tetanus vaccine shots because we have none.”
The longer survivors go without access to clean water, food, shelter and medical help, the greater chance of disease breaking out and people dying as a result of wounds sustained in the storm.
Tacloban, a city of 220,000 people, bore the full force of the winds and the tsunami-like storm surges. Most of the city is in ruins, a tangled mess of destroyed houses, cars and trees. Shopping malls, garages and stores have all been stripped of food and water by hungry residents.
The loss of life appears to be concentrated in Tacloban and surrounding areas, including a portion of Samar island that is separated from Leyte island by a strait. It is possible that other areas are devastated, with survivors unable to reach help.
Tragedy highlights need to build more roads and ports
Under a reforming president, the Philippines emerged as a rising economic star in Asia but the trail of death and destruction left by Typhoon Haiyan has highlighted a key weakness: fragile and patchy infrastructure after decades of neglect and corruption.
Lack of insurance means the disaster is likely to sap government finances but analysts say it might not slow growth significantly because of the small role the affected region plays in the wider economy.
Haiyan’s devastation, however, underlines the pressing need to spend more money to build more roads, ports and power lines – not only to improve living standards but also to better withstand the storms, earthquakes and other natural disasters that strike the country with regularity.
Despite the challenges posed by natural disasters, president Benigno Aquino III has managed to steer the economy into one of Asia’s fastest growing, raising hopes that millions would be pulled out of poverty.
Quarterly growth has risen as high as 7.8 per cent this year, outpacing China. Reflecting improved finances, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch have all given the country an investment grade credit rating, allowing the government to borrow money more cheaply.
TV presenter Klass fronts appeal to help the victims
Television presenter Myleene Klass has made an appeal for help for victims of Typhoon Haiyan.
Klass, who has family from the Philippines, fronted the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) aid appeal which was broadcast last night.
“It’s hard to comprehend the catastrophic impact of Typhoon Haiyan until we realise that behind the huge numbers are real people, someone’s father, mother or child,” she said. “And that each one of us can help save each one of them.
“I have family out there in the Philippines that have survived this, but they really are the lucky ones, as for so many right
now the story is so tragically different.”
The scale of the destruction is so vast that there is “huge unmet need”, according to the DEC, which is made up of the UK’s leading aid agencies.
Klass has already taken to Twitter, noting there are “incredibly kind people who want to help with the desperate, heartbreaking situation”.