Typhoon Victims Struggle To Survive As Aid Is Slow To Arrive

By Anthony Kuhn

November 13, 2013

Despair and criticisms are mounting in the Philippines as the delays stretch on and residents along the country's eastern seaboard struggle to survive without food or clean water.

According to one local government estimate, just 1 in 5 victims of Typhoon Haiyan has received any assistance.

On Wednesday, the U.S. military expanded its assistance to around-the-clock operations. U.S. Marine Osprey planes joined the procession of mostly military aircraft delivering aid workers and supplies to the devastated city of Tacloban.

Acting U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Brian Goldbeck met with local officials and watched the planes unload American supplies. When asked about the delays in distributing aid, he replied:

"Well, you know, our job is to get it here. We're confident that the Philippine government will be able to distribute and disburse it as it arrives. All of these things take time. The first part is assessment to know what the damage is, what's needed and where. I think the government has finished that, and now you're starting to see a much larger-scale flow of things."

Tecson Lim, the deputy of the mayor of Tacloban, was at the airport coordinating relief efforts. He blames the delay in part on the breakdown of law and order. He notes that several food warehouses were looted and emptied of food before it could be distributed.

"It took time for the police and the army to come here to secure these warehouses, these food warehouses," he says. "Even before the army could secure these areas, they were already looted."

Now law enforcement authorities say they have the situation under control.

Carmelo Espina Valmoria is director of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force, an elite counterterrorism and search-and-rescue unit. He has 600 men in Tacloban.

"We have already restored the peace and order with the arrival of the police, which started last Sunday because we have to augment the local police, considering that most of them were also victims of the onslaught of the Typhoon," he says.

Meanwhile, crowds of desperate, hungry survivors are still camped out in squalid conditions in and around the airport. They push up against the airport's gates and fences, hoping to get on a plane out of Tacloban.

One of the people helping out is Amado Guerrero Sano, a long-haired painter and photographer from Manila. He says he was in Tacloban just to visit a friend when the typhoon struck. Sano says his friend and his wife died in the typhoon, and their child is missing.

"It's terrible, I mean, at least I got to see him the last time. But next time I come here, he won't be here anymore," Sano says.

After that, he volunteered to help gather up the many corpses that lay strewn around Tacloban after the typhoon.

"I couldn't focus on anything else but the job of looking at and carrying dead bodies, especially children," he says. "It's only probably last night when I started to feel those emotions, the feeling of wanting to get out of here to go back home to see my family again."

Sano blames climate change for this disaster, and he has a personal connection to the issue. His brother is Naderev Sano, the Philippines' negotiator at climate talks going on in Warsaw. Sano says he's proud that his brother has gone on a hunger strike to press for meaningful progress on the issue.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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