CREWS CONTINUE TO COLLECT BODIES FROM STREETS AND RUBBLE

"One of the impressions is that there was total absence of food and water," Health Undersecretary Janette Garin said in a television interview, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA). "Some victims survived on coconut juice." That assessment came as crews were continuing to collect bodies from streets and rubble, raising to 3,631 the national disaster agency's official death count.

ALSO: SURVIVORS CONTINUE TO STRUGGLE

But the aid effort was still so short-handed that bodies lay uncollected in the hot sun, and injured survivors of Typhoon Hainan had to wait in line for treatment of gashed limbs.

ALSO: MASS GRAVE IN TACLOBAN UMAAPAW, FISH SCARE NAMAMAYANI

Gayunman, dahilan may ‘freeze order’ o mora­torium na tatlong araw sa pagbibilang ng mga bangkay ay nasa 3,982 pa lamang ang opisyal na tala ng National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC). Sa nasabing bilang, ay nasa 1,1056 ang mga bangkay na nakuha sa Tacloban City sa patuloy na clearing operation sa lungsod.

ALSO: JOJO ROBLES: Shut up, Noynoy

By now, you’ve probably heard of that ill-disguised attempt to absolve President Noynoy Aquino and his government of any blame for the disaster in Tacloban City and other areas, which is couched in language that seeks to reproach you for not being civic-spirited enough to help the victims: Shut up and just pack relief goods.


CREWS CONTINUE TO COLLECT BODIES FROM STREETS AND RUBBLE

TACLOBAN, NOVEMBER 20, 2013 (CNN)

Some Philippine typhoon victims surviving on coconut juice By Jethro Mullen. Ben Brumfield and Tom Watkins, CNN

UPDATED: 03:23 PM EST 11.15.13 More than a week after Typhoon Haiyan laid waste to much of the central Philippines, a health official said Friday that some victims are living off the land.

"One of the impressions is that there was total absence of food and water," Health Undersecretary Janette Garin said in a television interview, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA). "Some victims survived on coconut juice."

That assessment came as crews were continuing to collect bodies from streets and rubble, raising to 3,631 the national disaster agency's official death count.

The number of injured stood at 12,487, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported. At least 1,179 were missing.

But the numbers could rise, with an additional 1,000 cadaver bags sent to provinces, the disaster council announced, as search-and-rescue operations continued in Tacloban City.

The council's executive director, Eduardo Del Rosario, said the bags would be placed on stand-by, given that most of the bodies had already been buried in mass graves or claimed by relatives.

Used cadaver bags are cleaned before being reused, he said.

The council said that more than 9 million people were affected in 44 provinces, 536 municipalities and 55 cities. Nearly 2 million were displaced, with about 400,000 of them finding shelter inside evacuation centers.

In Tacloban City, sickness, hunger and thirst have settled in with the sticky, humid heat and the stench of rancid flesh hanging over the apocalyptic scene.

Survivors in improvised shelters have kept watch over the bodies of their dead relatives.

Juvelyn Taniega tried to keep busy. She collected old dishes and cleaned them, crouching near where her home once stood and the place where she last saw her husband and six children alive.

She's found the bodies of three of her children. "My children are decomposing," she said. In days, she said, no one has come to help and she was still looking for her three missing children.

There are many like her, looking over miles of fields containing the crushed wood and stone that once were their houses.

Cadaver collectors in debris-removal crews uncover some of the dead, while heaving away wreckage from the roads.

But the bodies that initially seemed ubiquitous are becoming a rarer sight, as collections continue.

PNA reported Friday that five-person teams that include a forensic expert and photographer would begin Saturday using a "quick system" for the bodies.

"Under the system, the public will not be allowed to view the identification process but relatives will be asked to participate in the final identification of corpses at an appointed time," it reported, citing the Department of Health.

Each team will be required to handle 40 corpses per day, it said.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that photos will be taken, identifying marks will be documented, and belongings and tissue samples for possible use in DNA testing will be collected, when practical.

Officially, 801 bodies were counted in Tacloban by Friday, but thousands are feared dead in this city, where entire neighborhoods were swept out to sea.

Wandering children

On Friday, children could be seen wandering unattended through the city's streets.

The young are the most vulnerable and the most needy, UNICEF spokesman Kent Page told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

"Health, nutrition, getting them clean water, good sanitation, protection, and we have to consider education also," Page said.

"Schools have been wiped out and getting kids into child-friendly spaces -- where they can feel protected, where they can get a chance to play, where they can get a sense of normalcy back in their life after going through such a devastating experience -- is very important."

Many parents were simply trying to get their children to safety. In some cases, mothers accompanied them out of town to places where food, water and shelter were available, while fathers stayed behind to sort through the remains of their lives, Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez said.

He advised other families to follow their example.

Turning a corner?

By Friday, crews had cleared the major streets of Tacloban, which was once home to 220,000 people and is now largely a ghost town populated by fields of rubble.

Many survivors have converged on the city's airport, where they were waiting in line for seats on flights out.

Others took to the sea. As naval ships pushed up on beaches like gray whales and dropped their loading bay gates, people laden with possessions entered the bellies of the arks en route to new lives elsewhere.

At the convention center, many stood for hours in long lines under the sun awaiting the next load of food and bottled water to arrive in bulk pallets from donors around the world.

Some were there because they had nowhere else to go.

"We really don't know what we're going to do next," said 30-year-old May May Gula, who was among nine families sharing a room on the convention center's ground floor.

Reaching and helping the survivors -- more than 2 million of whom need food, according to the government -- are priorities.

Mayor Romualdez likened Tacloban to a boxer struggling to stand up after getting knocked out.

Recovery efforts were helped on Thursday, when the USS George Washington, an aircraft carrier with 5,500 crew, sailed into Philippine waters.

It was accompanied by eight more ships that, together, carry 80 aircraft, including 21 helicopters that can deliver supplies to villages, where many roads have been obliterated, and identify people still cut off from help.

Irony

Some who would typically have provided aid found themselves needing help.

Ryan Cardenas, with the Philippine Navy, had helped with recovery efforts in each of the past two years after cyclones that left hundreds dead.

But when Haiyan slammed into the Tacloban naval station where he's based, he and other sailors were in no position to help others immediately -- they stayed alive by clinging to rafters in their barracks.

Their commanding officer, who was in a building badly damaged by the storm, clutched a palm tree's trunk for survival.

Afterward, the sailors helped retrieve bodies, according to Cardenas. One found his mother sitting dead against a wall.

Later, they sorted through the wreckage of the naval station and awaited orders.

"This is the worst," Cardenas said, taking a break from fixing a piece of damaged furniture. "We're both victims and rescuers."

Concerns of violence

The violence was not all attributable to the weather. A Philippines senator cited reports of rapes and other crimes against women, some allegedly by prison escapees, PNA reported.

Sen. Nancy Binay expressed alarm after hearing TV reports of assailants breaking into homes.

But the U.S. military has said that violent crime is less of an obstacle to providing aid than is the debris that still blocks some roads.

Someone to live for

A man whose wife and child drowned said he can't get the images out of his mind.

"The first one that I saw was my youngest," he said. "She fainted, and then she drowned. The water was so fast. And then my wife, when I tried to grab her, I missed her. Then she drowned, and then I never saw her again."

Over the past week, he said, he has been thinking of killing himself but hasn't, because he still has one child who needs him.

Typhoon victim: This is worse than hell

FROM THE PHILSTAR 'PANG MASA NEWS'

Mass grave sa Tacloban umaapaw, fish scare namayani... Ni Joy Cantos (Pang-Masa) | Updated November 20, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -Patuloy ang pag-apaw ng ‘mass grave’ sa Tacloban City at kinakapos na rin ng mga matitinong kabaong para sa libong bangkay sa mga narekober na biktima ng bagyong Yolanda sa lungsod.

Sinabi ni Sr. Supt. Pablito Cordeta, Task Force Cadaver Comman­der, 151 pang karagdagang mga bangkay ang kanilang narekober sa patuloy na paggalugad sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng lungsod.

Kaya’t umaabot na sa kabuuang 5,032 ang naitalang biktima ng super bagyong Yolanda na tumama sa Visayas Region partikular na sa Leyte at Samar noong Nobyembre 8.

Gayunman, dahilan may ‘freeze order’ o mora­torium na tatlong araw sa pagbibilang ng mga bangkay ay nasa 3,982 pa lamang ang opisyal na tala ng National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC).

Sa nasabing bilang, ay nasa 1,1056 ang mga bangkay na nakuha sa Tacloban City sa patuloy na clearing operation sa lungsod.

Nabatid na ang 151 pang karagdagang bangkay ay narekober sa tabing dagat ng Brgy. Magallanes, Pampango at Sagkahan.

Ayon sa opisyal dahilan hindi na halos magkasya ang mga bangkay sa inilaang mass grave sa Sitio Basler sa Brgy. Diit ng lungsod kaya mag­huhukay muli ng panibago para dito ilagay ang mga natagpuang mga pinaghahanap na labi.

Napaulat rin ang kakapusan ng mga ataul ng mga pamilya na nais bigyan ng mara­ngal na libing ang kanilang mahal sa buhay na nasawi kaya’t nagtutulong-tulong ang mga volunteers mula sa iba’t-ibang mga ahensya na gumawa ng ‘makeshift coffin’ para matugunan ang kakapusan ng kabagong para mailibing kaagad ang mga bangkay na positibo ng kinilala ng kanilang mga pamilya.

Namamayani na rin sa lungsod ang “fish scare” kasunod ng pagbubukas ng public market na halos dalawang linggo na nagsara matapos ang pamiminsala ng super bagyong Yolanda.

Tanging ang mga karne, gulay at prutas ang mabenta at halos walang bumibili ng mga isda kaya dismayado ang mga tindera sa palengke sa kabila ng paniniguro na hindi galing sa Tacloban City ang mga ibinebenta nilang isda at iba pang lamang dagat.

Ang mga naitalang bangkay sa lungsod ay narekober ng Philippine Coast Guard sa dagat matapos na magsilutang pero dahilan nakapokus sa relief operations ay marami pang mga bangkay ang nasa dagat.

EARLIER REPORT: FROM THE WASHINGTON POST

SURVIVORS CONTINUE TO STRUGGLE IN TYPHOON-HIT AREAS By Carmela Cruz and Chico Harlan, Published: November 14


Survivors struggle in the Philippines: Destruction across chain of islands leaves authorities with a complicated relief operation, on a scale exceeding any other in the history of the disaster-prone nation.

Aid starts flowing to Philippine typhoon survivors, but thousands missing.

TACLOBAN, Philippines — Emergency supplies started flowing into typhoon-devastated areas of the Philippines on Thursday, with a U.S. aircraft carrier group bringing helicopters to ferry in medicine and water.

But the aid effort was still so short-handed that bodies lay uncollected in the hot sun, and injured survivors of Typhoon Hainan had to wait in line for treatment of gashed limbs.

The massive international aid effort in the devastated city of Tacloban, Philippines, is not happening quickly enough for the homeless and hungry displaced by Typhoon Haiyan.

The massive international aid effort in the devastated city of Tacloban, Philippines, is not happening quickly enough for the homeless and hungry displaced by Typhoon Haiyan. Click here to subscribe.

In Tacloban, one of the worst-hit areas, Mayor Alfred Romualdez oversaw a mass burial of victims. As the bodies were being lowered into the ground, thunder rumbled and a sudden storm dumped rain on the grieving workers and onlookers.

“Everybody is traumatized by what happened,” a 23-year-old government employee said. She declined to give her name.

The Red Cross said that the preliminary number of people reported missing since the typhoon was 22,000, according to Reuters. But the relief organization cautioned that the figure could include people who were subsequently located.

In its latest report on the situation, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs put the confirmed death toll at 4,460 and said 921,200 people were displaced, out of a total of 11.8 million people affected. It said 243,600 houses were destroyed and that fuel in Tacloban was expected to run out in days.

Six days after the storm churned through the central islands of the Philippines, bringing with it a tsunami-like wall of water, there were still shortages of body bags, gasoline and personnel to collect the dead. In Tacloban, corpses were piled on the grounds of the Balyuan Amphitheater. Twenty more lay on the ground at a traffic junction, on a road leading to Samar.

On the shoreline of Cancabato Bay, beneath the sprawling, once manicured grounds of the Leyte Park Hotel, more than 30 bodies were still waiting to be picked up.

The ramped-up relief effort in the Philippines has brought aid to tens of thousands of victims, but it has also illustrated the vastness of this disaster — which spans several hundred miles of islands and includes areas yet to be accessed.

The disaster has reduced Tacloban, once a bustling provincial capital of 220,000, to a broken landscape of denuded hills and brown rot. Government buildings are abandoned and torn apart, and the stink of decay fills the air. With power out everywhere, miles of downed electrical wires have been repurposed as makeshift laundry lines, on which residents hang soaked remnants of clothing and bedding.

Dazed survivors hunt for loved ones who had vanished in the storm surge. Rizalde Bañares, 40, said he was searching for the bodies of his wife and his 5- and 7-year-old children. He said he found the corpse of his 9-month-old son, Rafael, earlier in the week, after a neighbor heard a report that a baby’s body had been discovered.

“We went to the place and found my son’s body on a pile of debris of trunk, leaves and rubbish,” Bañares said. “The person who had found him on the bend of Binahaan River took him to the higher ground, away from the overflowing riverbank.”

MANILA STANDARD COMMENTARY

Shut up, Noynoy By Jojo Robles | Nov. 20, 2013 at 12:12am 7

History’s greatest leaders have, in times of deep despair and grave national crisis, rallied their people with stirring messages of hope, unity and triumph over adversity.

But there must be a special place in history’s dustbin for leaders who, in similar times, look for someone to take the blame and file charges against them.

By now, you’ve probably heard of that ill-disguised attempt to absolve President Noynoy Aquino and his government of any blame for the disaster in Tacloban City and other areas, which is couched in language that seeks to reproach you for not being civic-spirited enough to help the victims: Shut up and just pack relief goods.

This propaganda strategy, probably the offspring of the most powerful 24/7 machinery for official press agentry even seen in this country, has been mostly debunked.

The outpouring of aid, including from people who have been criticizing government’s woefully inadequate response to the tragedy, has given the lie to the basic premise of the call – that people who don’t like how Aquino and his minions mishandled the crisis will not have the energy or even the attention span necessary to help their calamity-stricken fellow men while they are criticizing their government.

I am reminded of this none-too-subtle spin strategy when I read reports that Aquino, camped out somewhere in Tacloban, has ordered the investigation of local officials who may have failed in their job as first responders when Yolanda struck, with a view to filing the appropriate charges against them. To say that I am dumbfounded by this President’s sense of priorities is to call Yolanda a mere tropical depression.

Yes, this is exactly what we need right now in Tacloban – not drinking water and food, shelter and clothing, electricity or even the identification of the dead, but the investigation of and the filing of charges against local officials. Shut up and distribute your relief goods, Mr. President.

But I understand exactly why Aquino seems to feel the need to make the filing of charges a top priority. The unwavering position of the administration, after all, is that the national government didn’t fail – the local governments did.

“The system has to rely on the local government unit, which is already in place... so that the adequate responses can be generated by the national government,” Aquino explained his directive in Tacloban. “The national government had to fill in so many roles.”

The investigation of the local officials and the filing of charges against them, therefore, only make the cover-my-a*s position official, in Aquino’s mind. And to think that the dwindling number of Aquino loyalists claim that it is his critics who do nothing but indulge in politics and blame-tossing in the aftermath of the disaster.

To be sure, there will be a time for taking officials to court, especially if they happen to be members of the opposition whose localities just happen to have been devastated by Yolanda. But right now, Aquino should take a cue from his own propaganda machinery and just roll up his sleeves and stop yapping.

But Aquino will not be dissuaded: he just wants to pass on blame in a time of national emergency. What a lame-brained, sorry excuse for a President and a national leader.

•••

If Aquino really wanted to sue somebody, he’d go after those people reportedly engaged in the ghoulish task of suppressing the number of fatalities in Leyte and other areas destroyed by Yolanda.

Oh, but I forget: Aquino himself has insisted that his government was prepared for Yolanda and that he expected a “zero casualty” rate in its aftermath because of the vast and comprehensive preparations made.

Yolanda, of course, had other plans – and even Aquino’s “expected” 2,500 death toll (which he boldly predicted on CNN right after the typhoon) has long been surpassed in the laggardly official tally. But how do we know that the figure of 4,000 or so reported dead officially is even accurate?

Reports from Tacloban last weekend said that workers of the government’s Office of Civil Defense were engaging in a morbid “point shaving” operation in order to reduce the number of fatalities from the typhoon. At one point, OCD officials even slashed the number of more than 5,000 dead to less than 3,500, the latter figure reported to authorities in Manila as the actual body count.

Will Aquino investigate these reports, which have already appeared in the newspapers in Manila? I doubt that very much.

The question that must be asked is, why should Aquino put a cap on the number of people who died in the typhoon at all? Is it more important to him that he appear as the hands-on, prescient leader who was able to correctly judge the impact of Yolanda and then make the necessary counter-measures to avert the disaster?

Of course, what actually happened made a mockery of Aquino’s fearless (and brainless, if I may add) forecasts. The typhoon was stronger than anyone expected and the minuscule preparations made by the government were laid bare by its rampaging fury.

But don’t tell that to Aquino, who needs to have a casualty count worthy of the Commission on Elections. Or, failing that, local officials whom he can blame for making him look like an incompetent fool and allowing so many people to die.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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