Supplies Arrive, But Need Grows
Typhoon survivors rush to get a chance to board a C-130 military transport plane in Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. Thousands of typhoon survivors swarmed the airport in the city of Tacloban in the central Philippines seeking a flight out, but only a few hundred made it, leaving behind a shattered, rain-lashed city short of food and water and littered with countless bodies. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Tacloban, Philippines — Relief operations in this typhoon-devastated region of the Philippines picked up pace Wednesday, but still only minimal amounts of water, food and medical supplies were making it to the hardest-hit areas.
Aviation authorities said two more airports in the region had reopened, allowing for more aid flights.
International agencies and militaries were also speeding up operations to get staff, supplies and equipment in place for what will be a major humanitarian mission.
The damaged airport on Tacloban, a coastal city of 220,000 almost completely destroyed by Friday’s typhoon and coastal surge, has become the major hub for relief work.
A doctor at a makeshift clinic here said supplies of antibiotics and anesthetics arrived Tuesday for the first time.
“Until then, patients had to endure the pain,” said Dr. Victoriano Sambale.
The storm displaced at least 580,000 people across the region, in many cases leveling their homes.
Damaged infrastructure and bad communications links made a conclusive death toll difficult to estimate.
The official toll from a national disaster agency rose to 1,883 on Tuesday.
President Benigno Aquino III told CNN in a televised interview that the toll could be closer to 2,000 or 2,500, lower than an earlier estimate from two officials on the ground who said they feared as many as 10,000 might be dead.
“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, launching an appeal for $301 million to help the more than 11 million people estimated to be affected by the storm.
“Even in Tacloban, because of the debris and the difficulties with logistics and so on, we have not been able to get in the level of supply that we would want to. We are going to do as much as we can to bring in more,” she said.
Her office said she planned to visit the city.
Most of Tacloban is in ruins, a tangled mess of destroyed houses, cars and trees. Malls, garages and shops have all been stripped of food and water by hungry residents.
The loss of life appears to be concentrated in Tacloban and surrounding areas, including a portion of Samar island that is separated from Leyte island by a strait. It is possible that other devastated areas are so isolated they have not yet been reached.
In Cebu, to the southwest, the Philippine air force has been sending three C-130s back and forth to Tacloban from dawn to dusk, and had delivered 400,000 pounds of relief supplies, Lt. Col. Marciano Jesus Guevara said. A lack of electricity in Tacloban means planes can’t land there at night.
Guevara said the C-130s have transported nearly 3,000 civilians out of the disaster zone, and that the biggest problem in Tacloban is a lack of clean drinking water.
“Water is life,” he said. “If you have water with no food, you’ll survive.”
An Associated Press reporter drove through Tacloban for about 4 miles on Tuesday and saw more than 40 bodies. There was 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 lined up to get water from a hose, presumably from the city supply.
Doctors in Tacloban said they were desperate for medicine. At a small makeshift clinic with shattered windows beside the city’s ruined airport tower, army and air force medics said they had treated around 1,000 people for cuts, bruises, lacerations and deep wounds.
“It’s overwhelming,” said air force Capt. Antonio Tamayo. “We need more medicine. We cannot give anti-tetanus vaccine shots because we have none.”
The longer survivors go without access to clean water, food, shelter and medical help, the greater chance of disease breaking out and people dying as a result of wounds sustained in the storm.
Thousands of typhoon victims were trying to get out of Tacloban. 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 the military flights out of the city.
AP writers Oliver Teves, Chris Brummitt and Teresa Cerojano in Manila, Kristen Gelineau in Cebu and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.