Typhoon Haiyan: Tacloban survivors wait for aid

Typhoon survivors outside the ruins of their home, Tacloban (15 Nov) Much of the city of Tacloban has been destroyed

One week after Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the central Philippines, aid has begun to arrive in the city of Tacloban, one of the worst-affected areas. But as the BBC's Rajesh Mirchandani found out, it has yet to reach many of those most in need.

The body bags lay by the side of the main road.

Fifteen of them, I counted. Two were child-sized.

Somebody had clearly gone to the trouble of giving these poor wretches some shred of dignity - a shroud of dignity?

Except it wasn't, really. Why bag them, move them and leave - why not take them away? It's a sign of the chaos that has engulfed the city of Tacloban, just as the wave did one week earlier.


Along this particular stretch of wreckage, people casually stepped over the body bags and continued past.

Many crossed the street and joined the end of a long line, maybe 1,000 long, waiting in the hope of food aid. They'd heard it was due to be distributed at the Tacloban Convention Centre - itself damaged, but still a new home for thousands.

There was no sense of anger in that line of hungry faces, no simmering tension. In the Philippines they call this "bahala na", which roughly translates as "come what may" and suggests a stoical, good-natured attitude.

Statue of Jesus Christ in a churchyard in Tacloban (15 November) About 300 people have been buried in a mass grave beside this statue in the Palo suburb of Tacloban
US service personnel unload aid from a helicopter, Tacloban airport (15 November) Aid, some of it delivered from helicopters launched off a US aircraft carrier, is now reaching Tacloban
Typhoon survivors in the Palo suburb of Tacloban (15 November) Thousands of people in Tacloban have been left homeless
Children playing in Tacloban (15 November) The storm has now passed but the damage will take years to repair

As they sheltered under umbrellas from the brutal tropical sun, their faces displayed just tiredness and resignation - apart from the many children, who were playful and engaging.

But Abigail Salis' two toddlers were not there. They were being looked after by their grandmother in the ruins of a collapsed office building across the street - their new home.

The typhoon made Abigail a widow and now she was worried about how she would look after her children. They had survived on biscuits and a little water since the storm. They had eaten nothing on the day we met.

Abigail told me she had not been in line for long, maybe 30 minutes. Ahead of her, the line snaked for more than 100m (110 yards).

Inside the gates of the Convention Centre, the line became more of a gathering and where it ended there was nothing. Not a food distribution point, not a government or UN truck, not even a bag of rice.

People at the front told me they had been waiting for four hours. One woman said she had not had any water since 7am the day before.

The Dopa family, including 11-year-old Cherry Mae and Nathaniel, 9, squatted on the concrete and huddled for shade.

"What are you most worried about?" I asked Mrs Dopa.

"My children's education," she told me. She wore a t-shirt with the slogan "Fan of books".

While we were at the Convention Centre no food arrived, let alone was given out to people.

Yet parked outside, within sight of those waiting, were two flat-bed trucks laden with food supplies, donated by a private company. They told me that there was no-one to coordinate their donations, so they just waited.

And the people still went hungry.

Bahala na.

More on This Story

More Asia stories


Features & Analysis

  • TricycleTreasure trove

    The lost property shop stuffed with diamonds, bikes... and a leg

  • Boris Nemtsov'I loved Nemtsov'

    A murder in an atmosphere of hatred and intolerance

  • Image of George from Tube CrushTube crush

    How London's male commuters set Chinese hearts racing

  • INDHUJA'Dorky tomboy'

    The Indian who attracted proposals through honesty

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Audi R8Best in show

    BBC Autos takes a look at 10 of the most eye-catching new cars at the 2015 Geneva motor show


  • Kinetic sculpture violinClick Watch

    The "kinetic sculpture" that can replicate digital files and play them on a violin

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.