Monday, November 11, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan...Declared State of Emergency

The Philippine President Benigno Aquino has declared a state of national disaster to speed relief efforts for victims of Typhoon Haiyan. In a statement, he said the two worst affected provinces, Leyte and Samar, had suffered massive destruction and loss of life.

Thousands of survivors are still desperately waiting for the aid effort to reach them. Up to 10,000 people are feared to have been killed. Tacloban is one of the worst affected cities. Journalists say there does not yet seem to be an effective operation to get help to those in need. Hundreds of thousands more people have been displaced after the high winds and floodwaters destroyed their homes. Damage to roads and airports has delayed the delivery of aid.

One of the most powerful storms on record to make landfall, Haiyan - named "Yolanda" by Filipino authorities - struck the coastal provinces of Leyte and Samar on Friday. It then headed west, sweeping through six central Philippine islands. More than nine million people have been affected in the Philippines. Many are now struggling to survive without food, shelter or clean drinking water.

Observations of an on site Journalist:
"The northernmost tip of the island was hit by the storm. It was completely dark. The only light  came from a half moon and the glow of fires that people lit outside their homes amid the rubble of wood and metal they took from their houses and piled up by the side of the road. Most houses have been flattened with debris strewn everywhere. There is no power. Many people are walking in the pitch black with their possessions on their backs, looking for some kind of shelter."
A picture is slowly emerging of the full damage wrought by the storm:
  • The exposed easterly town of Guiuan, Samar province - population 40,000 - is said to be largely destroyed
  • Three-hundred people were killed in the town of Basey, also in Samar, the provincial disaster office confirmed
  • Tacloban, Leyte province, was largely flattened by a massive storm surge and scores of corpses are piled by the roadside, leaving a stench in the air as they rot. Hundreds of people gathered at the airport desperate for food and water, others trying to get a flight out
  • Disaster worker Dennis Chong said that assessments in the far north of Cebu province had shown some towns had suffered "80-90% damage"
  • Baco, a city of 35,000 in Oriental Mindoro province, was 80% under water, the UN said.
Updated destruction

A huge international relief effort is under way, but rescue workers have struggled to reach areas cut off since the storm. However, reports from Tacloban say that soldiers have been on the streets distributing food and water to some residents and the US military has sent marines to the city.

The head of the Philippine Red Cross, Richard Gordon, described the situation as "absolute bedlam".
"It's only now that they were able to get in and we're beginning just to bring in the necessary food items... as well as water and other things that they need".

                        Aerial footage shows devastation in Tanauan, Tacloban and Cebu

Jane Cocking, the humanitarian director for Oxfam, said her colleagues witnessed "complete devastation... entire parts of the coastline just disappeared".  Some 660,000 people have been displaced, according to UN figures, among a total of 9.8 million affected.

Senior UN humanitarian official John Ging said the UN's Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, was on her way to the Philippines. A priority of the UN's response teams once on the ground would be the burial of bodies to meet concerns about public health, he said.

Destroyed houses hit by Typhoon Haiyan in the town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar province, central Philippines on 11 November 2013

Three days after Typhoon Haiyan hit, aerial photos are revealing a scene of apocalyptic devastation along a swathe of the central Philippines.

A man salvages wood from his damaged house after the typhoon hit Tabogon town in Cebu province, 11  November 2013
The storm flattened houses, leaving thousands homeless in many areas.

Ships washed ashore by the typhoon in Tacloban, Philippines 11 November 2013

In Tacloban, one of the worst hit cities, the storm washed ships ashore.

A 21-year-old woman  lies exhausted on the debris-covered floor at a makeshift medical facility in Tacloban after giving birth to a baby girl

A 21-year-old woman lies exhausted on the debris-covered floor at a makeshift medical facility in Tacloban after giving birth to a baby girl. The storm surge swept away her mother.

Some are questioning what more authorities could have done to prepare for this, just the latest in a string of disasters to hit the nation of more than 7,000 islands. Authorities had evacuated hundreds of thousands of people before the typhoon arrived, but many evacuation centres - schools, churches and government buildings - proved unable to withstand the winds and storm surges.

Haiyan brought sustained winds of 235km/h (147mph), with gusts of 275 km/h (170 mph) and waves as high as 15m (45ft). In some places, as much as 400mm (15.75 inches) of rain fell.

Officials said looting was widespread and order was proving difficult to enforce. Correspondents say many ordinary people are simply scavenging for the food and water needed to survive.

American military aircraft and ships are being deployed to provide help. Aid is being flown into the only regional international airport at Cebu, with relief efforts focusing on Tacloban.  Other countries have also pledged millions of dollars in assistance. Australia has approved $9m in humanitarian aid to the Philippines, while New Zealand has pledged over $1m.

The Philippine envoy to the UN climate talks in Poland, Naderev Sano, shed tears as he blamed global warming for the typhoon.
"We can fix this," he said. "We can stop this madness, right now, right here."

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