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    Wednesday, November 13, 2013

    Typhoon Haiyan: Philippines Defends Aid Response

    Tacloban resident: "People of the world, come to my city. We need help"
    The Philippine government says it is facing its biggest ever logistical challenge after Typhoon Haiyan, which has affected up to 11 million people.
    Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said the government had been overwhelmed by the impact of Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms on record.
    The official death toll stands at more than 2,200, but local officials and aid workers say it could rise much higher.

    Mr Almendras said the government had responded to the disaster "quite well". Aid is slowly beginning to arrive in the worst-affected regions.
    The BBC's Jonathan Head in Tacloban, a devastated city of 220,000 on Leyte island, says Wednesday brought the first signs of an organised response.

    US military planes have been arriving at Tacloban's ruined airport, delivering World Food Programme supplies, which can be carried by helicopter to outlying regions, and a French-Belgian field hospital has been set up.
    Many people have left Tacloban, says our correspondent, but among those left behind there is a growing sense of panic and fear, not just of food running out but of law and order breaking down.

    On Tuesday, eight people died when a wall collapsed as thousands of desperate survivors mobbed a food warehouse.
    And on Wednesday there were reports of shots being fired in the street and of a teenaged boy being stabbed in the stomach.

    'Like never before'
    Mr Almendras told the BBC he believed the administration was "doing quite well" in handling the crisis, especially as it came weeks after a major earthquake in the same region.
    Sara Pantuliano from the ODI says such an "immense" disaster would test the most seasoned governments in the developed world
    "This is the largest logistic operation in the history of the Philippines, we have never done anything like this before," he said.
    "The Filipino resiliency will be proven by this crisis. Maybe somebody from the outside cannot understand the true nature of this country and the realities that can be found on the ground."

    Police spokesman Reuben Sindac denied there was a breakdown in law and order in Tacloban, telling the BBC there was a lot of rumour and misinformation spreading among people who were "in a state of shock".

    He said security forces were now in control of key installations, preventing looting and ensuring the safety of aid deliveries.
    Workers search for bodies on the beach in Tacloban, Philippines (13 Nov 2013).

    Typhoon Haiyan - one of the most powerful storms ever recorded on land - hit the coastal Philippine provinces of Leyte and Samar on Friday.
    It swept through six central Philippine islands before going on to kill several people in Vietnam and southern China.
    Disaster management officials in the Philippines have put the confirmed death toll there at 2,275, with another 3,665 injured as of Wednesday. More than 80 people are listed as missing.

    However, a congressman in Leyte told the BBC he believed the government was giving conservative estimates of the death toll "so as not to cause undue alarm".

    "Just viewing the disaster's scope - its magnitude and the areas affected - we believe that the 10,000 figure is more probable," said Martin Romualdez. "As we start cleaning up we are finding more bodies."

    The damage to Tacloban was "so massive in scale and so extensive in our areas that we literally would have to rebuild from scratch", he said, calling for greater co-ordination of aid to combat the rising "sense of hopelessness and desperation".
    The head of the Philippines Red Cross, Gwendolyn Pang, also said she expected the official death toll to rise.
    "Numbers are just coming in. Many of the areas we cannot access," she told Reuters.
    Christine Atillo-Villero, a doctor from Cebu, managed to board a flight on a military plane to Tacloban, to reach her family home in San Jose, on the outskirts of the city.

    "There were dead people lying around. In our backyard we have, I think, six corpses just lying there," she told Newsday on the BBC World Service.

    "People are walking around like zombies just looking for food and water.
    "My hometown will never be the same again. About 90% of the city is destroyed - nothing left."

    'No climate debate'
    The Philippines puts the number affected at just under 7 million, but the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says 11.3 million people are in need of vital goods and services, because of factors such as lack of food, healthcare and access to education and livelihoods.

    On Tuesday the UN launched an appeal for $301m (£190m) to help survivors. The UK's Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has also launched its own appeal., raising £13m ($20m) in its first 24 hours.
    US and British navy vessels have been sent to the Philippines and several nations have pledged millions of dollars in aid.

    Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino warned that storms like Haiyan were becoming more frequent, and there should be "no debate" that climate change was happening.
    He said either the world was committed to action on climate change "or let us be prepared to meet disasters".
    Six days after the typhoon hit, bodies are still in the streets and many people have received no aid

    Most of the damage has been concentrated on the neighbouring island of Samar, above, and on Leyte

    Hundreds of hungry and exhausted people have gathered at Tacloban's airport in the hope of getting aid, or a flight out

    Gen Paul Kennedy, commander of US Marine Taskforce: Larger aircraft "will completely change the pace of our build-up of supplies"

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