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Tons of aid in Philippines, but not where needed

Published 9:29am Tuesday, November 12, 2013

TACLOBAN, Philippines — The day after Typhoon Haiyan struck the eastern Philippine coast, a team of 15 doctors and logistics experts was ready to fly here to the worst-hit city to help. On Tuesday, five days into what could be the country’s deadliest disaster, they were still waiting to leave.

Aid is coming to Tacloban: medical supplies, pallets of water and food piled on trucks, planes and ferries, sent by the Philippine government and countries around the world. But the scale of the disaster and challenges of delivering the assistance means few in this city, strewn with debris and corpses, have received any help.

A team from Médecins Sans Frontières, complete with medical supplies, arrived in Cebu island on Saturday looking for a flight to Tacloban, but hadn’t left by Tuesday. A spokesman for the group said it was “difficult to tell” when it could leave.

“We are in contact with the authorities, but the (Tacloban) airport is only for the Philippines military use,” Lee Pik Kwan said in a telephone interview.

At the medics’ intended destination, thousands of typhoon victims were trying to get out. They camped at the airport and ran onto the tarmac when planes came in, surging past a broken iron fence and a few soldiers and police trying to control them. Most didn’t make it aboard.

“We need help. Nothing is happening,” said Aristone Balute, an 81-year-old who didn’t get on a flight out of the city. “We haven’t eaten since yesterday afternoon.” Her clothes were soaked from the rain, and tears streamed down her face.

An Associated Press reporter drove through the town for around 7 kilometers (4 miles) on Wednesday and saw more than 40 bodies. He saw no evidence of any organized delivery of food, water or medical supplies, though piles of aid have begun to arrive at the airport. Some people were lining up to get water from a hose, presumably from the city supply.

“There is a huge amount that we need to do. We have not been able to get into the remote communities,” U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said in Manila.

 


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