Dozens of countries and international groups joined the Philippine government’s frantic efforts to rescue survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda that officials fear may have killed 10,000 people.
Three days after the world’s most powerful typhoon flattened entire towns across the central Philippines and left countless bodies scattered across wastelands, desperation was building with devastated communities devoid of food, water and medicines.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd, who saw the extent of the devastation in the Eastern Visayas, declared a state of calamity late Monday.
The United Nations is set to issue a flash appeal on behalf of the Philippines for the massive humanitarian assistance and disaster relief needs of the areas savaged by Yolanda.
Some 22 countries, as well as the European Union and Taiwan, have pledged aid or sent relief and rescue teams as well as equipment to the disaster areas.
They include Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The offers of assistance were in the forms of “deployment of search-and-rescue teams and medical personnel; provision of relief goods like food, water, tents and blankets, among others; provision of medical supplies and vaccine; deployment of ships and aircrafts; and cash donations.
Australia donated nearly $10 million, while United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon promised UN humanitarian agencies would “respond rapidly to help people in need”.
The European Union sent relief supplies worth 3 million euro (P170 million.)
EU Development Commissioner Andris Pielbags flew to Manila on Monday to assess long-term development assistance to the Philippines. He said the initial aid was a part of the bigger P600 million fund that the EU has allotted for Yolanda victims.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) sounded a loud alarm about the urgency of getting relief supplies into the disaster zones, with the organization estimating up to four million children could be affected.
“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. But we are working around the clock.”
US President Barack Obama said he and wife Michelle are “deeply saddened” by the havoc caused by the typhoon, but lauded the “incredible resiliency” of the Filipino spirit.
In a statement posted on the website of the White House, Obama said his government is already providing “significant humanitarian assistance” to the Philippines.
“But I know the incredible resiliency of the Philippine people, and I am confident that the spirit of Bayanihan will see you through this tragedy,” he said.
China expressed sadness over the disaster and donated $100,000 for relief efforts.
We are deeply saddened to learn of the massive destruction caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda’s international name).
We wish to express our heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the victims and the families that have suffered immense losses of lives and properties,” the Chinese Embassy in Manila said in a statement.
Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sent condolences to the families of the typhoon victims.
Spain committed humanitarian assistance through its Spanish Embassy in Manila and announced the allocation of +1,100,000 (P 63 milion) for non-food items and supplies.
A cargo plane left Madrid on Monday to deliver water treatment plants, power generators, non-food items and various technical teams of experts to help guarantee WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) needs in the worst-hit areas in Visayas.
Cry for food
“We want an organized, coordinated brigade to collect the dead bodies, bring food and stop the looting,” said Joan Lumbre-Wilson, 54, who was among a large crowd of people gathered around one of the few relief centers in the ruined city of Tacloban.
“It has been four days. We want water and food. We want someone who will help. We are emotionally drained and physically exhausted. There are many babies and children who need attention,” she said.
Philippine authorities have been overwhelmed, their efforts to quickly deliver aid hamstrung by the destruction of airports, roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Many areas remained cut off from any relief efforts, leaving bodies to rot in the humid atmosphere and survivors little choice but to rummage through the carnage for food, water and other essentials.
The scale of the disaster continued to unfold on Monday, with aerial photos of Samar island where the typhoon first made landfall showing whole districts of coastal towns reduced to piles of splintered wood.
The governor of Samar said 433 people were confirmed killed there, although this was widely expected to be an underestimate.
In Tacloban, US military C-130 planes full of relief supplies began arriving on Monday afternoon.
The planes, with Marines onboard, were the most visible sign of a major international relief effort that had begun to build.
SAF vs. looting
A team from the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) arrived in Tacloban Monday to help stop looting in the city.
The arrival of the SAF team is “a sign of desperation because warehouses and groceries were swamped with people who are in need,” Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said.
He said there is a flood of donations but the government and private organizations are having a hard time distributing the aid because of blocked roads and damaged bridges.
Romualdez said that aside from looting, a Red Cross caravan was hijacked by hungry people.
“We understand their desperation for the relief goods but order must be restored. There are those who are taking advantage of the situation even stealing appliances,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) put the damage to agriculture at P3.7 billion. Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Operations Edilberto de Luna said that the super typhoon affected 71,000 hectares of agricultural areas.
The rice sector took the biggest blow, with losses of P2.22 billion, or 131,611 metric tons of palay. This represents 1.84 percent reduction of the last quarter national rice production targets.
Most of the damage was reported in Region 8, P1.96 billion, followed by Region 5 (P106 million) and Region 6 (P76 million).
For corn, losses amounted to P48.5 million.
Damage to irrigation facilities reached P212.7 million.
Groups and foundations offered to help, as Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas appealed to heads provinces and local government units not affected by the storm for food, water, medicine, blankets, clothes, tents, tarpaulins and tents that could be used as temporary shelters.
San Miguel Corp. President and COO Ramon Ang said Philippine Airlines will begin airlifting for free critical supplies and relief goods for the victims of Yolanda, following the resumption of operations of some of the affected airports.
To help ensure the efficient processing and delivery of goods, PAL said only donors duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission will be eligible to avail of the grant.
Donors can contact the PAL Foundation at telephone numbers (02) 851-2980 or (02) 8526090 (telefax) or email firstname.lastname@example.org and provide their name, the contact information of the consignee, and a list of the contents of the shipment.
SMC, through its San Miguel Foundation, coordinated with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to donate thousands of boxes of relief goods, consisting of drinking water and canned meat products.
Petron Corporation also designated over 500 service stations nationwide as drop-off points for donations.
San Miguel Brewery Inc. is repacking additional relief goods and will use its Mandaue Brewery in Cebu as a command center for relief operations and a drop-off point for donations.
Ginebra San Miguel Inc. is fielding teams of volunteers to help in recovery operations.
The SM Group of Companies, through the SM Foundation’s Operation Tulong Express, is conducting relief operations in typhoon-stricken areas across Luzon and the Visayas.
Roxas said the storm surges brought the most destruction to Tacloban and other coastline communities of Leyte.
He said governors and mayors in typhoon-devastated areas were having difficulty in assessing the extent of damage due to breakdown of telecommunication and impassable roads.
Roxas said technical experts are needed in restoring communication and power lines. Engineers are needed to assess the structural integrity of public buildings such as municipal halls, public markets, hospitals, school buildings and other structures used as evacuation centers, he said.
Those who want to donate can drop off goods at the DSWD NROC, Chapel Road, Pasay City (going to NAIA2) – Tel. No. 02-8512681; PNP Gymnasium, Camp Crame, Quezon City (c/o Supt. Teroy Taguinod) – Mobile No. 0915-3338685 / Tel. No. 02-7220650; Operation Tulong Bayan, Balai, EDSA cor. McArthur Ave., Cubao, Quezon City – Tel. No. 02-9136254 and The Commissary at Whitespace, 2341 Chino Roces Ave. Extension (formerly Pasong Tamo Ext.), Makati – Tel. No. 02-7290030.
With reports from AFP, Kristyn Nika M. Lazo and James Konstantin Galvez