A rundown, single-storey building with filthy floors at Tacloban’s ruined airport has become the area’s main medical centre for victims of last week’s powerful typhoon.
It has little medicine, virtually no facilities and very few doctors. What it is not short of are patients.
Hundreds of injured people, pregnant women, children and the elderly have poured into the squat, white building behind the control tower since Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the eastern Philippines last Friday, killing thousands of people.
Doctors who have so far been dealing with cuts, fractures and pregnancy complications said yesterday that they expect to be treating more serious problems such as pneumonia, dehydration, diarrhoea and infections within days. The medical woes add to the daunting tasks for authorities, including dealing with looters and clearing the bottlenecks holding up thousands of tons of aid material.
“The priority has got to be, let’s get the food in, let’s get the water in. We got a lot more come in today but even that won’t be enough. We really need to scale up the operation on an ongoing basis,” UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said after touring Talcoban, the capital of Leyte province.
While the cogs of what promises to be a massive international aid effort are beginning to turn, they are not quick enough for the 600,000 displaced people, many of whom are homeless, hungry and thirsty.
With the Tacloban airport battered and roads made impassable by debris, very little aid has arrived in the city. Most of it is stuck in Manila and the nearby airport of Cebu, a 45-minute flight away.
Many residents have resorted to raiding for food. Mobs overran a rice warehouse on Leyte, collapsing a wall that killed eight people. Thousands of sacks of grain were carted off. Yesterday, security forces exchanged gunfire with an armed gang.
Tacloban mayor Alfred Romualdez urged residents to flee the city as local authorities were having trouble providing food and water and maintaining order, it was reported. He said the city desperately needed trucks to distribute relief shipments accumulating at the airport, and equipment to pull decaying corpses from the rubble.
Despite those incidents, police said that the situation was improving. “We have restored order,” said Carmelo Espina Valmoria, director of the Philippine National Police special action force. “There has been looting for the last three days, but the situation has stabilised.”
With the local police force unable to operate – most members were victims – the government rushed thousands of soldiers and 600 policemen from other parts of the country. The security forces are helping to clear roads and remove the dead, many of them on roadsides. A 6pm to 6am curfew is in place.
“There are a lot of dead bodies outside. There’s no water, no food,” said Victoriano Sambale, one of a dozen medical staff tending to thousands of people at the airport clinic. Until yesterday, there was no anaesthetic, so open wounds had to be stitched without it. “Patients had to endure the pain,” Mr Sambale said.
The death toll rose to 2,344, according to a national tally kept by the disaster agency. That figure is expected to rise again when accurate information is collected from the whole disaster zone, which spreads over a wide swathe of the eastern and central Philippines but appears to be concentrated on two main islands, Leyte and Samar.
The congressman for eastern Samar province, a coastal region that bore the full force of the storm, said 211 people had been killed there and 45 were missing.
“The situation there was horrible,” Ben Evardone told a local television station. “Some communities disappeared, entire villages were wiped out. They were shouting ‘food, food, food’ when they saw me.”
The government said planes, ships and trucks were all on their way, loaded with generators, water purifying kits and emergency lights, and airports were reopening.
A Norwegian ship carrying supplies left from Manila, while an Australian air force transport plane ferrying a medical team left from Canberra. British and US navy vessels are also en route.
US Brigadier General Paul Kennedy promised action akin to the widely praised US military response after the 2004 Asian tsunami, when fleets of helicopters dropped water and food to hundreds of isolated communities. “You are not just going to see marines and a few planes and helicopters,” Kennedy said. “You will see the entire Pacific Command respond to this crisis.”
Scots give more than £1.3m to aid effort on appeal’s first day
More than £1.3 million has been raised in Scotland on the first day of an appeal to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
The Scottish Government pledged £600,000 and a further £760,000 has been raised through donations from the public to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal.
Thousands are feared dead and hundreds of thousands of people are in need of food, water and shelter.
Across the UK, £13m has been raised so far and the funds will go directly to help the millions of people affected by the typhoon which devastated parts of the Philippines last weekend, the DEC said.
The various aid agencies that make up the DEC are responding to the crisis and said the response so far across the UK has been “unprecedented” .
Norman McKinley, chair of the DEC appeal in Scotland, said: “This is a strong start to the appeal and we are very grateful to all those who have donated and to the Scottish Government for committing funds to help those Filipino people who are in great need.
“Emergency teams on the ground are working to provide essentials such as food, water and temporary shelter.
“The Scottish public have given incredibly generously in such a short space of time but the heartbreaking stories coming out of the Philippines show how great the need for help is.
“People there are becoming understandably desperate and it’s vital we continue to respond to their needs and that the Scottish people continue to donate to help us.”
DEC chief executive Saleh Saeed said the initial public response had been overwhelming.
“People have given so generously in such a short space of time,” he said.
“They have obviously been moved by the heartbreaking stories coming out of the Philippines of those struggling to survive.”
• Donations can be made at www.dec.org.uk, by 0370 60 60 900 or by texting ‘’SUPPORT’’ to 70000, which gives £5 to the aid effort.