Philippine Typhoon Haiyan survivors 'desperate' for aid

Tacloban resident: "People of the world, come to my city. We need help very badly"

Survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines are increasingly desperate for food, water and medical supplies, officials in affected areas say.

The official death toll stands at more than 2,000, though some reports say it could be as high as 10,000.

The UN says more than 11 million people may have been affected and some 673,000 displaced.

On Tuesday, eight people died when a wall collapsed as thousands of survivors mobbed a food warehouse.

At the scene

So where is the aid? That was the question on everyone's lips in the district of Pawing, outside Tacloban.

Nearly every house has either been flattened or left without roofs or windows. People are living amid the sodden debris that was once their homes.

They are wet, hungry, and increasingly angry. I watched them making the long trek into Tacloban in search of food, and returning empty-handed. One long queue outside a food warehouse quickly broke down into a free-for-all, people grabbing whatever they could.

The local government was pretty much wiped out by the typhoon. That's why the central government has taken over the running of Tacloban. But it is almost invisible. Without power or phone communications, people have no idea whether anything is being done for them.

The airport, while badly battered, is functioning. Planes come and go, several every hour. But they are not bringing much in, only taking people out. The Philippine army and police are very visible there, much less so in the rest of the city.

By day five of a disaster like this, you would expect to see some preparations for a scaled-up aid programme at the airport. There are still very few signs of that here. Instead, there are still corpses, lying uncollected, at the end of the runway.

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

There were also reports on Wednesday of gunshots in the devastated streets of Tacloban, a city of 220,000 on Leyte island which is particularly badly affected.


Typhoon Haiyan - one of the most powerful storms ever recorded on land - hit the coastal Philippine provinces of Leyte and Samar on Friday.

It swept through six central Philippine islands before going on to kill several people in Vietnam and southern China.

Disaster management officials in the Philippines have put the confirmed death toll there at 2,275, with another 3,665 injured as of Wednesday. More than 80 people are listed as missing.

But speaking to CNN on Tuesday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino said the widely reported estimate that 10,000 people had been killed by the storm - known locally as Yolanda - was inaccurate and may have come from officials facing "emotional trauma".

But he said 29 municipalities had yet to be contacted to establish the number of victims there.

The president also warned that storms like Haiyan were becoming more frequent, and there should be "no debate" that climate change was happening.

He said either the world committed to action on climate change "or let us be prepared to meet disasters".

A child bathes with water from a broken water pipe along a canal after super typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban City, in central Philippines 13 November 2013 Survivors are spending a sixth day seeking food and shelter amid complaints that aid is not reaching victims
People scavenge from a warehouse in Alangalang, Philippines (12 Nov 2013) Thousands of desperate people descended on a food warehouse in Alangalang on Tuesday to take whatever they could
Hundreds of residents form a line for relief goods amid the destruction left from Typhoon Haiyan in the coastal town of Tanawan, central Philippines, 13 November, 2013 Hundreds are queuing for relief goods including water and medicines

However, a congressman in Leyte told the BBC he believed the government was giving conservative estimates of the death toll "so as not to cause undue alarm".

"Just viewing the disaster's scope - its magnitude and the areas affected - we believe that the 10,000 figure is more probable," said Martin Romualdez. "As we start cleaning up we are finding more bodies."

The damage to Tacloban was "so massive in scale and so extensive in our areas that we literally would have to rebuild from scratch", he said, calling for greater co-ordination as aid to combat the rising "sense of hopelessness and desperation".

The head of the Philippines Red Cross, Gwendolyn Pang, also said she expected the official death toll to rise.

"Numbers are just coming in. Many of the areas we cannot access," she told Reuters.

"We thought it was our last day": Survivors talk to the BBC

Relief operations are being stepped up, but damage to transport links and continuing bad weather have hindered aid distribution.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Tacloban says residents are becoming angry at the lack of progress and increasing breakdown in security.

Aid at a glance

Australia: $9.3m package, including medical staff, shelter materials, water containers and hygiene kits

Japan: $10m, including tents and blankets. 25-person medical team already sent

South Korea: $5m plus a 40-strong medical team

Indonesia: Logistical aid including aircraft, food, generators and medicine

UAE: $10m in humanitarian aid

US: $20m in humanitarian aid, 90 marines, aircraft carrier plus logistics support

UK: $16m (£10m) package including emergency shelter, water and household items

Asia Development Bank: A $500m emergency reconstruction loan and $23m in grants

Donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC)

Planes are arriving at the airport, but bringing little in and only taking people out, and there is little sign of a co-ordinated relief operation, he says.

But Philippine Interior Minister Mar Roxas told the BBC that relief efforts were on track.

"Our first priorities were, number one, to establish law and order; number two, to bring food and water to the people; and, number three, to recover the cadaver bags," he said.

"[Now] law and order has been stabilised, the supply of food and water is beginning - I'm not saying that we're anywhere near it - [but it] is beginning to be stabilised... and now we are concentrating on recovery of cadavers as well as on the distribution of the food and the relief that is coming in."

On Tuesday the UN launched an appeal for $301m (£190m) to help survivors. It has already released $25m to meet immediate needs.

The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says 11.3 million people are in need of vital goods and services, because of factors such as lack of food, healthcare and access to education and livelihoods.

The UK's Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has also launched an appeal.

US and British navy vessels are heading to the Philippines and several nations have pledged millions of dollars in aid.

Philippines map

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