Philippines rescue workers struggled to bring aid to famished and destitute survivors Monday after a super typhoon that may have killed more than 10,000 people, in what is feared to be the country’s worst natural disaster.
Relief teams appeared overwhelmed in their efforts to help those whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed by Haiyan, which sent tsunami-like waves and merciless winds rampaging across large swathes of the archipelago Friday.
In Vietnam, more than 600,000 people were evacuated as Haiyan, which moved out of the Philippines and into the South China Sea on Saturday, made landfall there early Monday morning.
Hundreds of Filipino police and soldiers were deployed to contain looters in Tacloban, the devastated provincial capital of Leyte, with gangs stealing consumer goods such as televisions.
A long snake-like queue formed in Tacloban’s flattened airport as tired and hungry survivors, some who had trudged through mud and debris for several kilometres, sought the basic essentials for survival.
“We want water and medicines for the injured. So if you can organise it, please, for us, don’t let anybody come here who will just watch us and see us suffer, because we don’t want that,” Joan Lumbre Wilson told AFP, adding that authorities were struggling to cope with the sheer numbers seeking help.
“They’re trying to drive us away again, back to our places, where it’s too far, and then do it again tomorrow (walk to reach the compound), and it’s not fair on us,” she said.
“We’re already tired, emotionally drained, physically exhausted.”
Witnesses Sunday reported seeing looting and violence with President Benigno Aquino admitting it was a major concern. Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala told AFP Monday 100 soldiers had been sent to help police restore law and order in Tacloban.
New storm brewing
Threatening to further hamper relief efforts was a tropical depression approaching the southern and central Philippines. Government weather forecasters said the depression could bring fresh floods to typhoon-affected areas.
The depression is expected to hit land on the southern island of Mindanao late Tuesday and then move across the central islands of Bohol, Cebu, Negros and Panay, which all suffered typhoon damage, forecaster Connie Dadivas said.
It could bring “moderate to heavy” rains, or about five to 15 millimetres per hour, he said.
US meteorologists said Haiyan made landfall in Vietnam early Monday.
The US Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) said in an update at 2100 GMT the storm “is currently making landfall” approximately 97 miles east south-east of the capital Hanoi, with sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.
The typhoon had lost force at sea, striking Vietnam as the equivalent of a category-one hurricane — the weakest on the one-to-five Saffir-Simpson wind-speed scale.
It hit the Philippines as a category five storm with maximum sustained winds of 195 miles an hour, one of the most powerful ever recorded.
Despite the typhoon’s weakened state, more than 600,000 people were evacuated in Vietnam, with flooding and heavy rain expected.
The Vietnamese government website said Sunday that five people had died while preparing for the storm. Farther north, six members of a cargo boat were also missing off the Chinese province of Hainan, state media in China reported.
Up to four million children could be affected by the disaster in the Philippines, the United Nations Children’s Fund warned.
“We are rushing to get critical supplies to children who are bearing the brunt of this crisis,” said Unicef Philippines representative Tomoo Hozumi. “Reaching the worst-affected areas is very difficult,” he said. “But we are working around the clock.”
World promises aid
The United States, Australia and the United Nations are mobilising emergency aid to the Philippines as the scale of the devastation unleashed by Super Typhoon Haiyan emerges.
The Pentagon is sending military personnel and equipment to assist with the relief effort following the typhoon, which may have killed more than 10,000 people in what is feared to be the country’s worst natural disaster.
“The United States is already providing significant humanitarian assistance, and we stand ready to further assist the government’s relief and recovery efforts,” US President Barack Obama said in a statement.
Some 90 Marines and sailors, and two KC-130J Hercules aircraft, left Japan for the Philippines on Saturday, with equipment including tilt-rotor aircraft which can operate without runways, Marines Colonel John Peck said.
The Australian government pledged Aus$10 million dollars (US$9.38 million), with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop describing the unfolding tragedy as “absolutely devastating” and on a “massive scale”.
The sum includes Aus$4 million towards a UN global appeal and Aus$3 million for Australian non-government organisations. The aid will include tarpaulins, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, water containers and health and hygiene kits.
A team of Australian medics will leave on Wednesday via a C17 military transport plane from Darwin to join disaster experts already on the ground, the government said, after it disbursed emergency funds worth US$490,000 on Sunday.
Philippine rescue teams were said to be overwhelmed in their efforts to help those whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed after Haiyan ravaged large swathes of the archipelago Friday.
Officials were struggling to cope with the scale of death and destruction, with reports of violent looters and scarcity of food, drinking water and shelter.
United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon promised UN humanitarian agencies would “respond rapidly to help people in need”.
The UN children’s fund Unicef said a cargo plane carrying 60 tonnes of aid including shelters and medicine would arrive in the Philippines Tuesday, to be followed by deliveries of water purification and sanitation equipment.
Pope Francis led 60,000 people in Sunday prayers for the Philippines, urging the faithful to provide “concrete help” to the largely Roman Catholic country.
“Sadly, there are many, many victims and the damage is huge,” he said.
Other aid mobilised for the Philippines includes: — The European Commission said it would give three million euros ($4 million) towards the relief efforts. — Britain offered an emergency support package worth $9.6 million. — Germany’s embassy in Manila said an initial shipment of 23 tonnes of aid was being flown in and German rescue teams were already at work. — Like Australia, New Zealand also increased its humanitarian relief on Monday, bringing its total to NZ$2.15 million (US$1.78 million), while Canada has promised up to US$5 million to aid organisations. — Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said it was sending 200 tonnes of aid including medicine, tents and hygiene kits to arrive mid-week, with the first cargo plane leaving from Dubai on Monday and another from Belgium on Tuesday. — Taiwan’s government pledged immediate cash aid of US$200,000 and the Singapore government donated US$40,000. — Oxfam, the British-based relief organisation, said it has sent an assessment team ahead of aid operations.