ALSO: DNA test to ID dead costs P20 K per specimen

 CNN interviews Pnoy on super typhoon YOLANDA (HAIYAN)


MANILA, NOVEMBER 14, 2013 (INQUIRER) By Dona Z. Pazzibugan - Who’s in charge of the government’s “Yolanda” disaster response operations?
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Who’s in charge of the government’s “Yolanda” disaster response operations?

Not I, said National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Eduardo Del Rosario.

With relief goods not reaching affected towns five days since “Yolanda’s” onslaught, Del Rosario revealed he was not the chief go-to guy supposed to orchestrate the massive relief operations.

“It’s the Executive Secretary (Paquito Ochoa) as the right hand of the President, ably supported by Secretary (to the Cabinet Rene) Almendras,” replied Del Rosario when asked by a reporter Wednesday at the start of the NDRRMC’s latest daily meeting on the “Yolanda” relief operations.

An Army general who retired in November 2012, Del Rosario was picked to take over as NDRRMC executive director last January from Benito Ramos who resigned for personal reasons.

Ramos, a retired general who rose from the ranks and who led the military’s elite special forces, has ably orchestrated the government’s disaster response efforts since he was handpicked for the NDRRMC post by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in 2010.

Del Rosario last presided over the NDRRMC meeting on November 8, 5 p.m., hours after “Yolanda” struck, where he announced he was confident that the country would have “very, very low” casualties due to the preemptive evacuation done days ahead.

The President presided over the next NDRRMC meeting the next day, Saturday.

Then on Sunday, November 10, while in devastated Tacloban City, the President was reported to have shown frustration over the report made by Del Rosario and walked out shortly after.

Ochoa has been presiding over the inter-agency briefings at the NDRRMC office in the military general headquarters Camp Aguinaldo since Sunday.

‘Yolanda’ turns town into terrifying wasteland Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:20 am | Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
RUINS WHERE ‘YOLANDA’ MADE FIRST LANDFALL. The historic Church of the Immaculate Conception (roofless rectangle building with bell tower) in Guiuan, Samar province, lies in ruins like most structures in the town of Eastern Samar. Hailed as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum, the church was built by the Jesuits in the early 18th century. JOHN CHUA/INQUIRER CORRESPONDENT

GUIUAN, Eastern Samar—This fishing town where one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded made the first of a series of landfalls in the Visayas has been turned into a terrifying wasteland where armed men threaten to kill fellow survivors for food.

Guiuan, known for its beautiful beaches and rich colonial history, was where Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: “Haiyan”) roared in from the Pacific Ocean with winds of 315 kilometers an hour on Friday. Its fate remained unknown until Monday when soldiers and journalists arrived for a brief visit by helicopter.

“It is terrifying here,” a frightened resident told an Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalist as he stood amid the carnage of the town at the southern tip of Samar Island that a week ago was a bustling community of 47,000 people.

“There are armed thieves going about. If they know that you have food stored away, they will force their way into your house and rob you at gunpoint.”

Other residents warned of pistol-wielding men seeking not money but rice—a valuable commodity as the town’s food supplies dwindle.

Warehouse looted

At a warehouse—one of the few structures still standing—a crowd eagerly looted its contents, not just for food but for anything they could get their hands on: clothes, toys, trinkets, household goods.

“We’re helpless here. We are so few and they are so many,” a policeman said. He was one of just a few of the 35 policemen who had shown up for work after the typhoon.

Like in other devastated towns on Samar and neighboring islands, where more than 10,000 people were feared dead, police were victims, too. They were either dead, too traumatized to turn up for work or too preoccupied with trying to ensure their loved ones survived the gruesome typhoon aftermath.

Yolanda knocked out Guiuan’s water and telecommunications services and toppled trees and electrical posts, blocking routes to the town and any hopes of desperately needed food and medicines being delivered.

Large buildings and even a sports stadium were flattened, while from the air the remnants of dozens of flimsy homes built along the coast looked like piles of splintered wood.

The roof of Guiuan’s church, which dates back to the 1700s, had been blown off, eliminating another slice of history for a town known as the site where Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in 1521.

Other towns

General MacArthur, Balangkayan, Hernani, Salcedo and other southern towns were also badly beaten by Yolanda, according to a counselor of Ateneo de Manila, who was with 12 others in a team of mostly former seminarians from the Borongan Diocese that reached the areas.

Carlo Carlon, a native of MacArthur town, told the Inquirer in a satellite phone interview in his hometown that his group was gathering fresh information in the hard-to-reach areas and relay these to Manila so relief operations may be extended.

Hernani and Balangiga seemed to have been “hit by an atomic bomb,” he said.

The villages of Carmen, Batang and Garawon in Hernani were “wiped out from the map,” he added.

At least 65 people died in Hernani and were buried in a mass grave in the municipal public cemetery, Carlon said.

Residents’ plea

The residents were getting agitated by the scarce food supply, he said. “They need food, rice, and there should be security to maintain peace and order.”

In Manila, Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya said the Philippine Air Force was securing an airfield in Guiuan for the landing of relief supplies by C-130 planes.

The main cause of the devastation in Guiuan was the strong winds, a ragged man told the French news agency AFP, and not tsunami-like waves that destroyed many other towns.

He estimated that the death toll there was relatively small. “Less than a hundred,” he said.

But like elsewhere it seemed certain that it would be a long time before the true number of the dead in Guiuan is determined, if ever.

“There were a few dead bodies there. And some more over there,” another man said casually as he pointed at different pieces of debris.

“There may have been around 50 dead, but we buried them already.”—With reports from AFP; Connie E. Fernandez, Inquirer Visayas; and Miguel R. Camus in Manila


Relief goods needed for 18 months, say 2 int’l aid groups Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:26 am | Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Philippine soldiers stand near relief supplies for victims of Typhoon Haiyan at Villamor Airbase, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 in Manila, Philippines. AP FILE PHOTO

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Movement issued an appeal for aid to people ravaged by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) appealed for 72 million Swiss francs to provide 100,000 families with food, clean water, shelter and other essential relief over a period of 18 months.

“Samar Island has suffered unimaginable destruction and will be the main focus of our initial response,” said Alain Aeschlimann, ICRC head of operations for the region.

“This (response) includes delivering essential aid such as food, water, shelter and basic health care. We will also help separated family members contact each other,” Aeschlimann said in a statement.

In Central Mindanao, the Catholic laity has embarked on a diocesan-wide relief donation drive for the people of typhoon-stricken areas.

The relief donation campaign in the region involves not only parishes within the Archdiocese of Cotabato, but other sectors with “a humanitarian heart.”

“Volunteers, students and other humanitarian advocates have already signified involvement to join the noble objective of collecting whatever donation that we can extend to our suffering kababayans in Yolanda-ravaged communities in Visayas,” said Bishop Colin Bagaforo.

At least 100 soldiers, who are disaster-trained, had been deployed on Wednesday to Tacloban City to help in clearing operations.

Dr. Kadil Sinolinding, Muslim Mindanao health secretary, said the autonomous region’s medical and relief mission to the Visayas took off Wednesday equipped with food and nonfood items.—Germelina Lacorte and Charlie C. Señase, Inquirer Mindanao


DNA test to ID dead costs P20 K per specimen By Aie Balagtas See (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 14, 2013 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus0 0

People cover their noses from the stench of dead bodies in an area affected by Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, Philippines, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms on record, slammed into six central Philippine islands on Friday, leaving a wide swath of destruction and thousands of people dead. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

MANILA, Philippines - The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) should be given appropriate funding to identify the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda, an official said yesterday.

Wilfredo Tierra, assistant chief of the NBI’s forensics division, said the identification of cadavers would be costly because they would use DNA sampling, which would cost between P15,000 and P20,000 each.

Tierra said at least four samples – one from the dead and at least three from living relatives – would be needed.

He noted that the government spent millions to identify the victims of Typhoons Pablo, Reming and Sendong.

Tierra said the NBI sent a 20-man team to Tacloban City for the initial assessment of the area.

He said they are eyeing mass burial for the victims, who will be placed in separate bags, before they start the identification process.

The NBI would also use “secondary parameters” like clothes and pieces of jewelry worn by the victims to help the relatives identify them.

No danger

Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) said decomposing bodies in Yolanda-hit areas do not pose an immediate concern or danger.

“The idea is to make sure that the bodies are not left deteriorating or decomposing. If, let’s say, there is a foul smell, the public should not be afraid,” Health Secretary Enrique Ona said.

However, the DOH recommends the temporary burial of the victims in shallow graves. “Don’t bury them in deep graves so that they can easily be retrieved when the time comes for their identification,” said Ona, adding that the cadavers should be properly documented before burial. – With Sheila Crisostomo

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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