International aid donations from countries, individuals and humanitarian agencies are rapidly building as rescue workers from around the world rush to the Philippines after the year’s most powerful typhoon – and perhaps the most powerful in recorded history – flattened buildings and unleashed storm surges that ravaged communities.
The United Nations, the International Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies have “quickly ramped up critical relief operations to help families in desperate need,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement Monday. “While many communities are very difficult to reach, with roads, airports and bridges destroyed or blocked with debris, agencies have begun airlifting food, health, shelter, medical and other life-saving supplies.”
The UN World Food Programme, the largest humanitarian organisation in the world, estimates 2.5 million people will require emergency assistance. “This is destruction on a massive scale,” Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, head of the UN Disaster Assessment Coordination Team, said in a statement. The daunting relief effort had barely begun on Monday, as bloated bodies lay uncollected and uncounted in the streets and increasingly desperate survivors pleaded for food, water and medicine.
The US has nearly 100 Marines and sailors already on the ground and the US is also sending an aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, to the Philippines, in a move that could further scale up air operations at a time when ground teams are struggling to reach areas where roads are impassable and bridges destroyed. Similarly the UK said it would send a Royal Navy warship capable of purifying seawater.
The first aid to arrive came in the form of two C-130 Cargo Aircraft of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) on 9 November carrying troops to help restore order, communications equipment, water purifiers and other relief goods to aid typhoon victims.
President Benigno Aquino travelled to the devastated city of Tacloban Monday to view the aftermath of the storm. “We’re talking about power, we’re talking food and water” as priorities, Aquino told reporters. “We want to be able to send the correct assets to address the correctly identified problems at the soonest possible time,” he said.
Television images from the city showed bodies on the streets and floating in the sea, homes reduced to rubble, structures with their roofs ripped off and roads blocked by felled trees. Soldiers have been deployed to stop people looting as they wait for food aid. “This report of looting is very new to our experience, collective experience as a country,” Aquino said. The greatest challenge is “showing the people here that they don’t have to be desperate,” he said.