"The same day, the mayor of Tacloban, one of the worst-hit areas, estimated that 10,000 could have died in his city alone. Malacañang could not give a time frame on how soon the government could collect bodies left decomposing by the road in a number of Leyte towns."

TACLOBAN CITY, NOVEMBER 15, 2013 (MANILA BULLETIN) The USS George Washington aircraft carrier has arrived in the Philippines Thursday afternoon, international media agency CBS news tweeted.

USS George Washington arrives in PH for rescue, relief operations by Ron B. Lopez November 14, 2013 (updated)

The United States sent the aircraft carrier to assist the Philippine government in the relief and rescue operations in areas heavily affected by super typhoon Yolanda.

According to the US Navy website, the aircraft carrier is carrying 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft, which came from Hong Kong for a port visit. Embarked on board USS George Washington, is Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW-5), it added.

However, it is still unclear if other US carriers are already in the Philippine coast. US Navy said that the aircraft will be accompanied by cruisers USS Antietam (CG 54) and USS Cowpens (CG 63), and the destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89), together with supply ship USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE-10) and USS Lassen (DDG 82).

“CVW-5 is a collection of aircraft designed to perform various functions including disaster relief and includes the “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 flying the MH-60S Seahawk; and the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 77 flying the MH-60R Seahawk,” US Navy said.

The Pentagon said that it has massive amounts of water and food, aside from the $20 million of immediate aid from the US government.

The US has also ordered the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) to be ready to support the ongoing disaster relief efforts in the country.

US readies Navy Hospital Ship for ‘Yolanda’ victims by Manila Bulletin November 14, 2013 (updated) MANILA BULLETIN

The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) sits off the coast of the Philippines in this handout photo dated July 1, 2012. The U.S. Navy ship was activated November 13, 2013 to be ready to support disaster relief efforts in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. (REUTERS) WASHINGTON (Reuters)

The U.S. military has ordered the activation a Navy hospital ship for possible deployment to the Philippines in December, as the United States ramps up its relief mission after that country’s devastating typhoon, officials said on Wednesday.

The USNS Mercy is slow-moving and it could take about three weeks for the ship to reach the Philippines from San Diego if it first stops in Hawaii to pick up additional personnel and equipment, a U.S. military spokesman said.

With a capacity to treat hundreds of patients at any given time, the Mercy would bring enormous capability to efforts to help treat victims of Typhoon Haiyan during what is expected to be a long recovery for the Philippines.

“If ordered to deploy, Mercy would get underway in the next several days and could arrive in the Philippines sometime in December,” the Navy’s Pacific Fleet said in a statement.

Haiyan, one of the strongest storms ever recorded, tore through the central Philippines on Friday. It flattened the coastal city of Tacloban and destroyed all but two hospitals there.

The death toll is still unclear. But more than 670,000 people have been displaced by the storm, the United Nations said, and survivors have become increasingly desperate as essential supplies have dwindled.

On Wednesday, one U.S. official said relief operations were picking up pace now that some logistical hurdles had been addressed.

“It’s been a very difficult first few days wading through some of these logistical obstacles – that’s not unusual in this kind of a crisis,” the official said, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity. “We’re getting a better handle on that and feel like we’re starting to turn a corner.”

The Mercy would join other U.S. ships, including the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, which is expected to arrive off the Philippines on Thursday along with cruisers USS Antietam and USS Cowpens, the Navy said. The destroyers USNS Mustin and USS Lassen have already arrived off the Philippines, the Navy’s Pacific Fleet said.

Other U.S. vessels, including the amphibious ships USS Ashland and USS Germantown, are expected to arrive in the Philippines in about a week, it added.

The number of U.S. military personnel on the ground could also triple to more than a thousand in a week, from just over 300 now, one U.S. official estimated, speaking on condition of anonymity

Navy ship to ferry people out of Tacloban to Cebu by Mars W. Mosqueda Jr. November 12, 2013 Cebu City, Cebu —


The Central Command (CentCom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday announced that a navy ship will be deployed to Tacloban to ferry people who want to get out of the city and go to Cebu.

A source from CentCom said the Navy‘s LC550 will be used to transport passengers from Tacloban to Cebu. The vessel has the capacity to accommodate up to 1,500 people.

People who want to board the navy ship will have to line up at the Tacloban port because the boarding will be on a first come, first serve basis.

The AFP is deploying the Navy ship following thousands of requests from local residents wanting to board the C-130 cargo planes flown by the Philippine Air Force to bring relief goods to Tacloban.

The C-130 planes, said the AFP, are strictly for transporting relief goods and ferrying of military personnel from Cebu to Tacloban City and vice versa. The AFP said, though, that it will prioritize sick and wounded persons due for treatment in Cebu City on board C-130 aircraft.

Meanwhile, the Cebu Provincial Board (PB) has declared the entire Cebu province under a state of calamity after super typhoon Yolanda struck the Visayas region.

It was the second declaration the PB made in less than 30 days after a strong earthquake also hit Cebu last October 15.

The PB also authorized Gov. Hilario Davide III to release P23 million from the province’s calamity fund as financial assistance to local government units (LGUs) badly hit by the typhoon.

The local government units (LGUs) of Bantayan, Madridejos, Santa Fe, Medellin, Daanbantayan, San Remigio, and Pilar towns, as well as Bogo City will get P2 million each while Poro, San Francisco, Tudela, Borbon, Tabogon, Tabuelan and Sogod will get P1 million each.


After disaster, tallying death toll difficult Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:59 am | Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Amid the chaos of a natural disaster, tallying an accurate death toll is often difficult and sometimes not a priority.

The aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: “Haiyan”) in the Philippines has been no different, where initial estimates of the dead were put by some at 10,000.

On Tuesday, President Aquino disputed that figure, saying it was likely to be closer to 2,000 or 2,500. In the meantime, an official tally shows the number at 2,275.

In one sense, outside of newsrooms it matters little. Any number of dead is a tragedy, whether it be 2,000, 3,000 or 10,000.

In terms of planning emergency relief operations, the number of people needing assistance and damage to infrastructure is often more important.

Over time, a final toll is tallied, or in the case of larger disasters, an estimate agreed upon.

The President’s estimate was “based on unconfirmed reports on the ground,” said Eduardo del Rosario, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Del Rosario, a retired Army general, said the latest official toll showed 2,275 confirmed dead, 3,365 injured and 80 missing. “What we issue is based on the actual accounting of dead bodies,” he said.

After barring journalists from covering the council’s daily assessment meetings since Sunday, Del Rosario allowed them to ask for updates from representatives of different agencies during a meeting on Wednesday.

With affected areas still reeling from the massive devastation and many remote communities not yet reached, the number of verified fatalities so far neared the estimate given by the President.

Confusion in count
The following factors have been attributed to the confusion in the count:
– Downed communication lines making it impossible to get up-to-date information.
– Affected local government officials, themselves victims, unable to work to full capacity.
– Villagers burying their dead immediately or bodies being sucked out to sea and not being counted.

Similar factors were cited in the aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami, where in some instances separate government departments in Indonesia were giving out significantly different figures, each unconcerned about the confusion this created.

CNN interview
“Ten thousand (dead), I think, is too much,” Aquino told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. He noted that “there was emotional trauma involved with that particular estimate quoting both a police official and a local government official.”

“They were too close to the incident. They didn’t have any basis for it,” he said.

On Sunday, two days after the typhoon hit the Philippines, a regional police official told reporters that the death toll was estimated at 10,000, based on reports from local village chiefs collected by the governor.

The same day, the mayor of Tacloban, one of the worst-hit areas, estimated that 10,000 could have died in his city alone.

Malacañang could not give a time frame on how soon the government could collect bodies left decomposing by the road in a number of Leyte towns.

“The bodies are being worked on,” Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said. “There was a report that the reason why the bodies [were] not being handled [was] because there was a lack of cadaver bags.”

Almendras said around 4,000 bags had been brought to the disaster site, just to make sure that “there is an oversupply.”
“I am not saying that the casualties are 4,000, OK?” he clarified.

NBI forensic team

The National Bureau of Investigation would be in charge of identifying the bodies because the Philippine National Police was “so busy in retrieval and clearing operations,” Almendras said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said a Disaster Victims Identification (DVI) team flew to devastated Tacloban City on Tuesday to find a location where they would be able to examine the bodies given the sensitive nature of their work.

De Lima said the team would identify the bodies to alert relatives who would want to give their loved ones a decent burial. “We have to account for each and everybody, living or dead, they need to be accounted for,” she added.

A second team, possibly from the agency’s medico-legal division, will be deployed to reinforce the first one, she told reporters after attending the 77th founding anniversary of the NBI at its Manila headquarters.

She said she had talked to Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta about sending her office’s forensic team to the calamity-affected provinces and that three forensic pathologists, including Dr. Raquel Fortun, had volunteered their services.

In her Twitter account, Fortun has advised authorities to “start with [the] systemic recovery of the dead.”

“Do basic exam then temporary burials. No sense aiming for positive ID now,” she said.—Reports from Christian V. Esguerra, Dona Z. Pazzibugan and Christine O. Avendaño; and AP

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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