Typhoon Haiyan: eight die in food stampede amid desperate wait for aid
Thousands storm rice warehouse in the devastated central Philippines while Haiyan relief effort flounders
Kate Hodal and Tania Branigan in Cebu
theguardian.com, Wednesday 13 November 2013 08.30 GMT
Link to video: Tacloban residents queue for airlifthttp://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/nov/13/tacloban-residents-airlift-video
Eight people have been killed in the typhoon-ravaged central Philippines after thousands of Haiyan survivors stormed a government-owned rice warehouse seeking food supplies.
The Philippines National Food Authority said police and soldiers stood by helpless as people streamed into the warehouse in Alangalang, Leyte province – an area where hunger and desperation are running high after Haiyan made landfall early on Friday morning, ravaging vast swaths of Leyte and Samar islands. The security forces could only watch as more than 100,000 sacks of rice were carried away.
The eight were crushed to death when a wall in the warehouse collapsed, spokesman Rex Estoperez told the Associated Press. Other rice warehouses were dotted around the region, he said, refusing to give their locations for security reasons.
The Philippines government has come under fire for failing to deliver aid adequately or quickly enough, with growing frustration in the hardest hit areas, such as Tacloban, the capital of Leyte province where dead bodies have piled up on the streets and residents have resorted to looting to find food.
A military official told the Guardian on Wednesday that the government was aiming to double its relief efforts within the next two days. Attempts to provide help were buoyed by the expected arrival of two extra US military C-130 planes and one additional Australian air force plane.
Three relief distribution points were being set up in the Leyte island towns of Tacloban, Guiuan and Ormoc, the official said, with the main aid effort operating out of neighbouring Cebu instead of Manila, the capital, which is 360 miles to the north.
More than 10,000 people are feared to have been killed in the Philippines due to Haiyan, most of them in Leyte province, with aid workers suggesting that number may rise significantly. As many as 29 municipalities have still not been reached due to impassable roads and downed telecommunications.
President Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday that he believed the number killed to be far lower – around 2,500 – and told CNN that the 10,000 figure may have come from an "emotional" official, with government figures alleging that the death toll stands at 2,275. The UN has said more than 670,000 people have been displaced and a total of 11.3 million people directly affected by the super storm.
International relief efforts intensified with the launch of a UN appeal and the dispatch of American, British and Japanese troops to the affected regions. But minimal amounts of aid have reached the worst‑hit areas.
More than 3,000 people surged on to the tarmac of Tacloban airport on Tuesday morning in the hope of flying out on the two Philippine air force planes that had just arrived.
Babies and sick or elderly people were given priority but only a few hundred were able to leave. Others were held back by soldiers and police. Many had walked for hours and camped at the base overnight.
"I was pleading with the soldiers. I was kneeling and begging because I have diabetes," said Helen Cordial as she lay on a stretcher, shaking. "Do they want me to die in this airport? They are stone-hearted," she told the Associated Press.
Dean Smith, an Australian who has been living with his family near Palo, Leyte province, for the last five years, told the Guardian that he waited eight hours to be able to get one of the first commercial flights out of Tacloban to Cebu. On the way to the airport he said he saw "horrifying things that I know I have seen but my brain hasn't processed yet".
He described scenes of chaos in the city centre, where police were stealing money from the local cashpoints, people in cars were refusing to drive the injured to get help, and the bloated body of a man floating in dirty water was being gnawed at by a dog.
"What people have gone through, what they have seen – there is going to be a lot of post-traumatic stress after this event I assure you," he said shakily. "No one has ever seen anything like this."
Having arrived on Tuesday in Cebu, Smith was planning to stock up on food, medicine and water and take it back to his Palo home, where his wife, six children, a 92-year-old grandmother and a pregnant nanny were all desperately awaiting supplies. He departed for Tacloban early on Wednesday morning.
Domestic and international relief efforts were being hampered by wet weather, poor communications and damaged infrastructure, with aircraft only able to land in Tacloban during daylight hours because the air control tower had been destroyed by Haiyan. Unsubstantiated reports of aid convoys being attacked by hungry victims circulated, with the Telegraph reporting that communist rebels had been killed whilst trying to intercept a Red Cross convoy destined for the island of Samar.
Still, Corizon Soliman, secretary of the Philippine department of social welfare and development, said aid had so far reached a third of the city's 45,000 families.
However armed forces spokesman Ramon Zagala told the BBC that relief workers were struggling to deliver aid for a number of reasons.
"The area is very vast and the number of helicopters – although we have a lot of helicopters at the moment – it's really a challenge for us to bring [aid] to all the places and [bring] the number of goods that are needed."
The BBC quoted a Leyte official as saying that although relief goods like medicine and equipment were arriving into the province "it's just not reaching the people affected".
The UN released $25m (£15.7m) in emergency funds for shelter materials and household items, and for assistance with emergency health services, safe water supplies and sanitation.
The UN aid chief, Valerie Amos, launched an appeal for $300m as she arrived in Manila. "We have deployed specialist teams, vital logistics support and dispatched critical supplies but we have to do more and faster," she said.
The US, Britain, Japan, Australia and other nations have pledged tens of millions of dollars in immediate aid, and some businesses have also offered help: banking group HSBC announced a $1m (£630,000) cash donation.
In Tacloban shops were stripped of food and water by hungry residents. While some tents had arrived, the widespread damage left many people sleeping in the ruins of their homes or under shredded trees.
Military doctors at a makeshift clinic at the airport said they had treated about 1,000 people for cuts, bruises and deep wounds but did not have enough medical supplies.
"It's overwhelming," said Antonio Tamayo, an air force captain. "We need more medicine. We can't give anti-tetanus vaccine shots because we have none."
The typhoon flattened Basey, a seaside town in Samar province about six miles across a bay from Tacloban. About 2,000 people were missing there, its governor said. Rescue and relief workers were yet to reach many of the more remote areas.
"There are hundreds of other towns and villages stretched over thousands of kilometres that were in the path of the typhoon and with which all communication has been cut," said Natasha Reyes, emergency co-ordinator in the Philippines at Médecins Sans Frontières. "No one knows what the situation is like in these more rural and remote places, and it's going to be some time before we have a full picture."
Damage to communications left the armed forces struggling to reach local authorities and many officials were dead, missing or trying to protect their own families.
"Basically the only branch of government that is working here is the military," Ruben Guinolbay, a Philippine army captain, told Reuters in Tacloban. "That is not good. We are not supposed to take over government."
The interior secretary, Manuel Roxas, said on Tuesday that only 20 of Tacloban's 293 police had arrived for work. But he added: "Today we have stabilised the situation. There are no longer reports of looting. The food supply is coming in. Up to 50,000 food packs are coming in every day, with each pack able to feed up to a family of five for three days."
A team of British medical experts and the first consignment of aid from the UK was leaving for the Philippines, David Cameron said on Tuesday.
The UK surgical team, led by Anthony Redmond, Manchester University professor of international emergency medicine, includes three emergency physicians, two orthopaedic surgeons, a plastic surgeon, two accident and emergency nurses, a theatre nurse, two anaesthetists and one specialist physiotherapist.
The USS George Washington aircraft carrier, transporting about 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft, plus four other US navy ships, should arrive in two to three days, the Pentagon said.
Britain's HMS Daring, a warship with equipment to make drinking water from seawater, and a military transport aircraft should arrive around the same time.
Japan is sending a team of 40 from its self-defence force.
Aquino has declared a state of national calamity, allowing the central government to release emergency funds more quickly and impose price controls.
Initial estimates of the cost of the damage vary widely, with a report from German-based CEDIM Forensic Disaster Analysis putting the total at anywhere from $8bn to $19bn.
*********************Typhoon Haiyan: in village after village the plea is the same – please help us!
In northern Cebu, where the typhoon made two devastating landfalls last Friday, families line the road begging for supplies
Kate Hodal in Bogo
The Guardian, Tuesday 12 November 2013 18.24 GMT
The children stand in clusters with wooden signs at the side of the highway, their palms outstretched. "Please help us," reads one sign, scrawled in permanent ink on a broken board. "We need food & water," reads another.
As our car weaves its way through the sugar cane-covered hills of northern Cebu – a region where typhoon Haiyan made two devastating landfalls last Friday – we pass family after family begging for help from the buses and trucks that drive past. One boy, agitated at the lack of drivers who have slowed down or stopped, screams out: "We need help!"
In village after village, families line the road requesting help, with various signs – but all variations on the same theme. We park on a hill at a smattering of obliterated thatch huts in Tagoban, a few miles outside Bogo – a city of 85,000 people that officials estimate was 95% destroyed by Haiyan. A group of men are holding out buckets and empty water bottles, hoping for a passing vehicle to throw out cash or food.
"Maybe 10 cars will help us out a day, giving little packages, or 20 or 50 pesos," says Dondon Toleng, 28, dressed in a black Adidas T-shirt and basketball shorts, as he stretches out a bucket into oncoming traffic. Soon a van full of Filipinos drives by and chucks out three packages of crackers. "Thank you," he cries out, as a number of trucks seemingly full of dried foods and donated aid stream past, on their way, ostensibly, to Bogo.
Toleng explains the difficulty of trying to get hold of aid in the aftermath of Haiyan, the strongest storm ever recorded.
"There is some aid being delivered, but we have to go all the way into Bogo City to get it," he says, a return journey of some 25 miles. "We have no fuel, we have no money, our water pumps are broken, so everything costs."
Water from the town costs 30 pesos, he explains, but as he earns only 60 pesos a day as a cutter in the neighbouring sugar cane plantation, neither he – nor his neighbours – have the funds to support his family in this time of crisis.
Heading north, the black ribbon of road extending through this agricultural region of Cebu is framed either side by destruction. Felled trees line the route, their palms crunching under tyres, and in some places whole roofs lie in the road, decorated with the black wires of fallen pylons.
Every few miles there is another village and another group of families begging for supplies. One hut, its thatched roof still partially intact, has a sign that pleads simply: "Have mercy."
In Bogo, people are milling about listlessly. Girls dressed in yellow uniforms giggle behind empty glass cases in their food shops, but there is nothing to sell. The cashpoint machines are broken; without electricity, no one can get any money.
"There's nothing to buy," says one girl manning her parents' convenience shop. "We are all out of stock."
The buildings here make it look like a bomb went off in the centre of town: metal sheeting has torn huge gaping holes in shopfronts and flying debris has knocked statues off their pedestals. The flimsiest houses – those made of thatch and bamboo – have disintegrated organically into the hillside, the remnants of their insides scattered around like litter.
Around 20 families have taken up refuge in the magnificent pink stone church at the top of the hill, where a statue of St Vincent Ferrer looks out over the caved-in city.
"I went back to see my house yesterday and it was totally destroyed. I just stood there and cried," says Nilvic Ursal, 27, a mother of two who plans to stay in the church's community hall – which had its roof blown off – as long as she can. "There was nothing left but water and mud. We have no way to fix it."
At least in the church there is some food, says Father Dave Jurcales, who says it may take two months for the city's electricity lines to be replaced.
"A trickle of aid has come into Bogo in the last day – we're co-ordinating with our own agencies and the city is distributing its own aid. The government is giving out rice, noodles and dry goods, and we're providing water, shelter and electricity from a generator."
Not far from the church sits Bogo's squat sports complex, a covered basketball court that doubled as the city's evacuation centre until its roof was blown off and water started pouring in everywhere. Now it serves as the main warehouse and distribution centre for relief goods that arrive on trucks from Cebu, 60 miles away.
The complex is also home to over 520 people, almost all sleeping on the cold concrete floor with only a cardboard box as a bed.
"There are four families sharing this space with me," says Ruchelle Minincilio, 39, as she cradles her baby, pointing to a space no larger than six feet by 12. "My house is gone. There is nowhere else to go."
Inside, the wooden basketball court is covered in water. Tents have been erected to protect the stacks of rice from damage and a gaggle of police hang around in the stands, chatting. Bogo's mayor, Celestino Martinez Jr, is sitting at a table underneath one of the tents overseeing operations, where he complains that, without exact figures for how many families are in need, the aid his city really requires is still unknown.
"The aid only started coming in yesterday, because for two days we were unreachable," he says, referring to impassable roads and downed telecommunications.
"As of right now, we don't know how many homeless, how many victims. The problem is if you give one [sack of rice to survivors], they want two. If you give two, they want three. So you tell them: 'No, just come back tomorrow.' The aid is coming in from the government, from NGOs, from private donors. It all has to be co-ordinated and divided at local level and then sent out."
Martinez makes it sound as though the operation is complex. But when questioned as to why hundreds of bags of rice were still in the warehouse and hadn't yet been delivered to hungry residents, he could only describe a "first wave" of aid and a "second wave" of aid. "This is the second wave," he said simply.
The road north from Bogo towards Cebu's northernmost tip, Daanbantayen, is surrounded by the debris of people's homes, and while there are no official death tolls here yet – in Bogo, the mayor said, the number was just 11, thanks to an efficient evacuation procedure – the scale of devastation in this agricultural belt will take years to reverse.
Many residents live tucked away in small villages along the coast or in the mountains, where aid has not yet reached and the numbers of dead and injured are still unknown.
Local and international aid workers know as much, and have tried to send out teams to assess the situation. But blocked roads and faulty communications have prevented much of the news from the truly remote areas – such as Bantayen island, just north of here – from being known. It also means that aid, when it is delivered, only goes to the few who know it is coming.
"Unless someone had come up into the mountains to tell me this aid delivery was going on, I wouldn't have known about it," says Jean Rowsen, 37, as she picks up a bag of privately donated goods in Calape town hall. "This is the only aid I've received and it might be the last – unless someone comes up to help us in the mountains."
Kenneth Lim of the philanthropic Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, which was providing toiletries, sardines, rice, noodles, milk and sugar to roughly 2,000 families across north Cebu on Tuesday alone, said the aid task was formidable.
"We've been driving through the north of the island all morning, handing out these bags," he explained. "We can't get everywhere, but it's obvious the people are desperate."
As night falls on the island and the roads become slick with a new rain that many fear is yet another storm looming, families wait out the long evening with candles and their dwindling supplies. In the shadows, you can just about make out lone villagers traipsing along with water containers, and the children still standing with their palms out, begging in the dark.
*****************UN launches massive $300 million appeal as warships head to battered Philippines to help
By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 7:20 EST
The UN launched an appeal for a third of a billion dollars on Tuesday as US and British warships steamed towards the typhoon-ravaged Philippines where well over 10,000 people are feared dead.
Four days after Super Typhoon Haiyan destroyed entire coastal communities with record winds and tsunami-like waves, the magnitude of the disaster continued to build with almost unimaginable horror.
Festering bodies still littered the streets in many areas, with the smell of rotting flesh hanging in the air and ramping up the fear of disease in the tropical heat.
Increasingly desperate survivors begged for help that was having difficulty reaching them — many still without access to food and water after nights spent in the open.
Graphic on the emerging view of the destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan accross the central Philippines
“We are certainly expecting the worst. As we get more and more access we find the tragedy of more and more people killed in this typhoon,” UN humanitarian operations director John Ging said, after Philippine President Benigno Aquino declared a “state of national calamity”.
The United Nations warned 10,000 people were feared dead in just one city, Tacloban, the provincial capital of Leyte province where five-metre (16-foot) waves flattened nearly everything in their path as they swept hundreds of metres inland.
Nearly 10 million people, or 10 percent of the Philippines’ population, have been affected, while 660,000 have lost their homes, the UN estimated as it launched a flash appeal for $301 million.
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told reporters in Manila the money was needed for “food, health, sanitation, shelter, debris removal and also protection of the most vulnerable”.
“I very much hope our donors will be generous.”
Amos praised the international community’s reaction since Haiyan slammed into the Philippines on Friday, but said much more needed to be done in a disaster of almost biblical proportions.
“We have already seen an international and generous response given the horrific pictures that people have seen, particularly on their television screens,” she said.
Overwhelmed and under-resourced rescue workers have been unable to provide desperately needed food, water, medicines, shelter and other relief supplies to many survivors, and desperation has been building across the disaster zones.
“There is nothing here left for us. Our house is gone, we don’t have any money, we don’t have our documents, passports, school records,” Carol Mampas, 48, told AFP at Tacloban’s destroyed airport as she cradled her feverish baby son in a blanket.
“Please, please, tell authorities to help us. Where is the food, where is the water? Where are the military collecting the dead?”
Bodies still litter the wreckage, while security concerns are growing as gangs take advantage of a security vacuum to loot homes and businesses.
The government announced a night-time curfew for Tacloban and deployed special forces across the ruined city to try to prevent pillaging.
Downpours worsen desperation
Heavy rain overnight in Tacloban compounded survivors’ desperation, while a tropical storm to the south threatened other typhoon-hit islands where hundreds of other people were also killed.
An international relief effort has begun to build momentum, with the United States and Britain announcing they were sending warships carrying thousands of sailors to the Philippines.
The aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which has 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft aboard, headed from Hong Kong to the United States’ close Asian ally on Tuesday.
Five other US warships are also being deployed, and the carrier group is expected to reach the Philippines within two to three days, the Pentagon said. Dozens of US marines arrived in Tacloban on Monday as an advance team.
A British warship, currently in Singapore, would head “at full speed” to the Philippines, Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday.
Many other countries have pledged help with even China, which has been embroiled in a bitter territorial dispute with the Philippines, offering aid and sympathy.
The UN children’s fund UNICEF said a cargo plane carrying 60 tonnes of aid including shelters and medicine would arrive in the Philippines Tuesday, to be followed by deliveries of water purification and sanitation equipment.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR was also organising an airlift carrying aid including hygiene kits.
Aquino’s declaration late Monday of a state of calamity allowed the government to impose price controls and quickly release emergency funds.
“In the coming days, be assured: help will reach you faster and faster,” he said in a televised address.
“My appeal to you all is: remaining calm, praying, cooperating with, and assisting one another are the things that will help us to rise from this calamity.”
Coastal towns reduced to piles of wood
Haiyan’s sustained winds when it hit Samar island, where it first made landfall, reached 315 kilometres (195 miles) an hour, making it the strongest typhoon in the world this year and one of the most powerful ever recorded.
Aerial photos of Samar showed whole districts of coastal towns reduced to piles of splintered wood.
The official government death toll stands at 1,774, although authorities have admitted they have not come close to accurately assessing the number of bodies lying amid the rubble or swept out to sea.
The Philippines is hit with an average of 20 tropical storms or typhoons a year, as they emerge from the Pacific Ocean and sweep west.
However Haiyan’s record intensity has fuelled concerns that climate change is increasing the ferocity of storms.
Blaming global warming for Haiyan’s mega-strength, Philippines negotiator Naderev Sano pledged at UN climate talks in Warsaw on Monday to fast until progress was made on tackling the environmental crisis.
If the death toll of more than 10,000 is correct, Haiyan would be the deadliest natural disaster ever recorded in the country.
A weakened Haiyan hit Vietnam and China on Monday. At least seven people were reportedly killed in China.