DEATH TOLL, AS OF NOV. 20, 4,011
Aquino 'tempted to despair' at typhoon toll
Aquino visited the town of Palo, just south of worst-hit Tacloban city, where engineers have salvaged generators from a flood IT park to light up the streets and town hall again. "One is tempted to despair, but the minute I despair, then everybody, it cascades down and everybody gets hampered in their efforts," he said.
ALSO: In Tacloban, a grisly race to identify the dead
Some of these remains, their faces are gone. We’re trying to do it as fast as we can before we lose everything,” says Lim, as a truck unloads 80 more dead at her workspace—the edge of a mass grave outside the storm-shattered city of Tacloban. A putrid stench rises from the giant pit where around 700 unevenly stacked bodies lie six deep, some of them having lain in the tropical heat for a week-and-a-half. Scores more lie on the side of the road, lined up in bags and awaiting processing by small, overworked teams.
ALSO: A third of rice crop wiped out
“Regions most severely affected by the typhoon account for one-third of the total rice production in the country,” the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a statement. The main-season harvest was well under way in the central Philippines when the typhoon hit, which also “badly disrupting” ongoing planting for the secondary season, the FAO said.
Aquino 'tempted to despair' at typhoon toll By Dennis Carcamo (philstar.com) | Updated November 20, 2013 - 5:40pm Reuters Posted at 11/18/2013 7:06 PM | Updated as of 11/18/2013 7:06 PM Reuters Posted at 11/18/2013 7:06 PM | Updated as of 11/18/2013 7:06 PM
MANILA, NOVEMBER 21, 2013 (ABS-CBN) MANILA - The United Nations expressed fear on Monday that some Philippine islands hit by a giant typhoon have not been reached 10 days after disaster struck and President Benigno Aquino said the scale of suffering "tempted him to despair."
Authorities estimate more than 3,900 people were killed when Typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan, one of the largest ever recorded, made landfall in the central Philippines and the sea surged ashore.
Philippine authorities, the U.S. military and international agencies face a mounting humanitarian crisis, with the number of people displaced by the catastrophe estimated at four million, up from 900,000 late last week.
Bernard Kerblat, UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative for the Philippines, said the agency was still facing coordination problems and bottlenecks.
"As of now, personally, I am not so sure that we've reached every single portion of the territory where people are in need of aid," he said.
"And, in fact, I wouldn't be surprised that unfortunately that there might still be, as I'm speaking to you, day 11 of this disaster, there might be still very isolated islands."
Orla Fagan, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said it was a "logistical nightmare" to get relief supplies out at all.
"The size, the quantity of people that have been affected by this, this is massive, between 10 and 12.9 million people have to be assisted to recover from this. This is absolutely huge. It's like taking the whole of Belgium and trying to assist."
Aquino visited the town of Palo, just south of worst-hit Tacloban city, where engineers have salvaged generators from a flood IT park to light up the streets and town hall again.
"One is tempted to despair, but the minute I despair, then everybody, it cascades down and everybody gets hampered in their efforts," he said.
The World Bank is to extend a $500 million emergency loan to support reconstruction of buildings that can withstand winds of 250 kph (150 mph) to 280 kph and resist severe flooding, it said in a statement.
Haiyan slammed central Philippine islands with 314 kph winds, causing tsunami-like storm surges that swallowed nearly the whole of Tacloban, once home to 220,000 people, in Leyte and Guiuan town in Eastern Samar.
Nearly 95 percent of the deaths from the typhoon came from Leyte and Eastern Samar.
Amateur video has emerged of the storm at its peak as it washed away a structure on the coast of Eastern Samar.
Aid worker Nickson Gensis, along with five others, took refuge in the top floor of a boarding house and while the others were praying, he pulled out his camera and started filming.
His footage shows the storm surge wash away a house and turn the area from barren land to sea in less than 30 seconds.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the cost of rebuilding would be huge.
"It will be much more than the $500 million (from the World Bank), even the additional $500 million that the ADB (Asian Development Bank) is also promising to provide us," he said.
(Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco, Eric dela Cruz and Karen Lema in Manila and Chris Meyers in London; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel)
FROM THE MANILA TIMES
In Tacloban, a grisly race to identify the dead November 20, 2013 9:52 pm
A man contemplates his future as he surveys the wreck that was once his house in Tacloban City. Behind him, cars and other debris float on the river. Photo By Rene Dilan
TACLOBAN CITY: Clouds of flies rise as forensic pathologist Cecilia Lim opens body bags one by one, in a grim but crucial search for the identities of unknown typhoon victims.
“Some of these remains, their faces are gone. We’re trying to do it as fast as we can before we lose everything,” says Lim, as a truck unloads 80 more dead at her workspace—the edge of a mass grave outside the storm-shattered city of Tacloban.
A putrid stench rises from the giant pit where around 700 unevenly stacked bodies lie six deep, some of them having lain in the tropical heat for a week-and-a-half.
Scores more lie on the side of the road, lined up in bags and awaiting processing by small, overworked teams.
Lim says the aim is to record rudimentary details before they are buried in the hope that at some point, the bodies can be identified and placed in a proper grave.
“We are trying to do some initial victim identification and post mortem gathering of evidence before the bodies really decompose,” she says.
As her assistant lifts the limp, wet clothes of each cadaver, Lim takes notes in neat cursive script in a reporter’s notebook, recording the sex and describing distinguishing marks.
Each hand is lifted to check for rings and the pockets are emptied, their contents inspected, logged and photographed.
Long, matted hair is scraped from one woman’s face, exposing her teeth so Lim can take a picture.
Crouching over the bloated body of one man, her knees just above the remains of his face, Lim unfolds a pair of spectacles taken from his shirt pocket, looking for a brand name on the arm before she refolds and photographs them.
“We document the clothes they are wearing, as well as any jewellery, tattoos or scars; something distinctive that people remember,” she says.
Cesar Pretencio rode his motorbike up from Tacloban in the search for his mother’s body.
“We had identified her and she was left in the chapel, but now she is gone,” he says. “We want to know where she is so we can give her a proper burial.”
Lim nods sympathetically and tells Pretencio she will “keep an eye out” for his mother.
With the disaster known to have left more than 5,500 people dead or missing, the authorities are overwhelmed and Lim is just one of a handful of forensic pathologists who have been called in to help.
Those that are identified can be claimed by family and interred with the usual ceremony. The rest are taken to one of three pits like this.
The corpses are brought by firefighters who drive around the ruined city collecting the dead from among the debris of the storm surge.
“Yesterday we went out on the truck around Tacloban picking up bodies. We got 92,” Gallie Encabo tells Agence France-Presse.
He is part of a group of 15 firemen who have come from Mindanao to help with the recovery after one of the most powerful storms ever recorded.
The teams are being rotated among body collection, mass grave duty and water distribution.
“When the doctors have recorded the marks on the bodies for identification, we will put them in the ground,” he says, gesturing to the pit where a yellow excavator is digging a second trench.
This is the first time they have done body recovery on such a scale, says fellow firefighter
“There are so many,” he says. “Yesterday when we stopped for one body, people would be shouting: ‘Hey, there’s one over here’.”
Lim, who trained in Detroit and Singapore, says that since she and other professionals started work on Monday, they have been trying to impose order on the burial process.
She admits that dealing with so many corpses is harrowing work.
“You go through all the training for a mass disaster,” she says. “But nothing can prepare you for this.”
VIDEO: Thomson Reuters Foundation correspondent Thin Lei Win reports
from storm-hit Guiuan
READ FULL REPORT AT:
A third of rice crop wiped out November 20, 2013 9:55 pm by Bernice Camille Bauzon, Catherine Valente, Mayvelin U. Caraballo And Kristyn Nika M. Lazo Reporters
Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) wiped a third of the Philippines’ rice-growing areas, the United Nations (UN) food agency said on Tuesday, as it called for “urgent assistance” to farmers who need to sow new seeds.
“Regions most severely affected by the typhoon account for one-third of the total rice production in the country,” the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a statement.
“Hundreds of thousands of farmers in the Philippines whose crops were destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan need urgent assistance to sow new seeds before the end of the current planting season,” it said.
The main-season harvest was well under way in the central Philippines when the typhoon hit, which also “badly disrupting” ongoing planting for the secondary season, the FAO said.
The Rome-based agency added: “There is concern that many storage facilities may have been destroyed, along with their contents.”
Dominique Burgeon, head of FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division, said in the statement: “If we want to avoid entire regions of the country having to rely on food aid, we need to act now to help vulnerable families to plant or replant by late December.”
The agency plans to supply seeds for rice and maize as well as tools, fertilizer and irrigation equipment, it said.
“Families will also receive vegetable seeds to help bridge the gap before the next harvest,” it added.
Some 13 million people were affected by the typhoon that also claimed at least 4,000 lives.
Four million people were displaced, according to the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.
An estimated 2.5 million are in need of food aid.
Valerie Amos, undersecretary general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordination of the United Nations, said relief operations in hard-hit Tacloban City have “scaled up substantially” but the needs of victims are still “immense.”
“Today was very different. People are making every effort to rebuild their lives and the early signs of entrepreneurialism are all there, with women cooking and selling food, others removing debris or providing other support in the community,” she said after visiting the city for the second time.
“Every day, aid efforts garner pace with the systems getting through to more people,” she said.
But Amos admitted that relief groups have not reached thousands of people in remote areas.
To date, some 1.1 million people have been provided with food aid. This is out of the 2.5 million people who require food assistance.
Amos said reaching out to 1.1 million people is not normal for a crisis that has lasted for almost two weeks, but she noted that the Philippine government had distributed 837,900 food packs in the affected areas.
Some 500,000 homes have been destroyed while the need for emergency shelter and basic protection for women and children remains.
Some 3.2 million women and 4.6 million children are also in need of psychological support and protection against violence, trafficking and exploitation.
Amos expressed her confidence that the Philippines will overcome the crisis because of the outpouring of aid from other countries and organizations.
The UN appealed for $301 million and has so far raised $193 million for the victims.
“And while we increase our immediate response efforts, we are also looking to the future, helping people restore their livelihoods. The government, I’m sure, will be doing a post disaster needs assessment to frame longer term rehabilitation efforts,” the UN official said.
Amos said she continues “to be struck by the resilience and spirit of the Filipino people.”
“Everywhere I visited, I saw families determined to rebuild their lives under the most difficult conditions. I would like to assure them and the Philippine government that the United Nations and international community continue to stand with them,” she said.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is working on a blueprint that will enable government agencies to work together in the reconstruction and restoration of typhoon-ravaged areas.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the unified assessment, which will come out in December, will be the basis for the rebuilding efforts. The plan will also identify short term and medium term priority projects of the government that can be considered in drafting the national budgets for 2014 and 2015, which can also be aided by donor assistance and the private sector.
“We need to act quickly but we also need to determine the right sequence of actions so we can address both immediate and longer-term needs,” Balisacan said.
According to Banco de Oro, the economy may slow down to three percent to four percent for the fourth quarter of 2013 because of the effects of Yolanda.
Jose Noel Mendoza, BDO senior vice president, said the projected growth is significantly weaker than the first three quarters.
NEDA trimmed its Gross Domestic Product estimate for the fourth quarter to 4.1 percent.
NEDA said that full-year GDP growth could range from 6.5 percent to 7 percent, slower than its earlier forecast of 7.3 percent.
Despite the lower projected growth, BDO sees full year GDP growth for 2013 at 7 percent.
Mendoza said next year’s GDP will still be close to a 6.5 percent as rehabilitation efforts ramp up.
“Usually when there’s a disaster, it has a one-shot effect, meaning growth will be cut near term, but with the rehabilitation efforts going into 2014, we are going to see the economy bouncing back at stronger level,” he told reporters.
Mendoza predicted inflation rising to about 3.5 percent next year, from 2.9 percent this year because of higher energy costs.
“Part of the power generating capability of the companies has been affected by the typhoon. In order to address that gap, the power generating companies or distributors will have to rely on the more expensive bunker fuel,” he said.
The bank’s inflation forecast was well within the 3-percent to 5-percent target band of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) this year until 2014.
Malacañang said Tacloban City is slowly returning to normalcy as banks and businesses reopen.
“Today, the Development Bank of the Philippines is set to resume operations, while counter transactions will also commence in the banks that are scheduled to open,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
“Two major commercial establishments in the city, the Robinson’s and Gaisano supermarkets, are also set to open today. It is reported that a hardware store and an agri-supply store have also opened,” he said.
The Department Public Works Highways (DPWH) identified the towns of Palo, Maasin, Basey, Marabut, and Guiuan as possible areas where bunkhouses for typhoon survivors could be built, Lacierda said.
“Relief was delivered to 32 of the 40 municipalities of Leyte; the other eight towns, which are serviced by the Ormoc hub, were not able to collect their food packages, despite being informed of the availability of relief. Secretary (Mar) Roxas explained that some local government officials from these towns did not have the means to collect and deliver relief items to their communities,” Lacierda said.
The humanitarian assistance official of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is in the country to personally convey the 10-member bloc’s solidarity with the Philippines.
“We have been informing and mobilizing support from the Member States and will continue to facilitate Asean’s response to this calamity in order to assist the Philippines in its relief and recovery efforts,” Secretary General Le Luong Minh said on his arrival in Manila on Wednesday.
Minh will brief officials on Asean’s response to the emergency and recovery efforts in typhoon-hit areas. He will also fly to Tacloban to visit affected communities there.
A team of humanitarian response specialists from Asean has been in the Philippines since Yolanda struck.
To date, Asean member states have provided an estimated $10 million in financial aid to the Philippines.
125 shelter packs provided by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), each containing 4 family-sized kits, and nearly 1,000 litres of fresh drinking water, have been distributed by HMS Daring to communities on the islands of Canas, Calagnaan and Tulunanaun to the north east of the island of Panay in typhoon-hit Philippines. In this photo, Petty Officer (Medical Assistant) Michele Trotter helps distribute prepacked shelters on the island of Calagnaan. Leading Airman (Photographer) Keith Morgan/Crown copyright
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