Survivors stand among debris and ruins of houses destroyed after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines, 10 November 2013. Photo: Erik De Castro / Reuters

By Christopher Bodeen and Kristen Gelineau, with additional reporting by Christopher Bodeen from Beijing
16 November 2013

TACLOBAN, Philippines (AP) – Since the typhoon hit, Danny Estember has been hiking three hours round-trip into the mountains each day to obtain what he can only hope is clean water for his five daughters and two sons.

The exhausting journey is necessary because safe water is desperately scarce in this storm-ravaged portion of the Philippines. Without it, people struggling to rebuild and even survive risk catching intestinal and other diseases that can spread if they're unable to wash properly.

While aid agencies work to provide a steady supply, survivors have resorted to scooping from streams, catching rainwater in buckets and smashing open pipes to obtain what is left from disabled pumping stations. With at least 600,000 people homeless, the demand is massive.

"I'm thirsty and hungry. I'm worried — no food, no house, no water, no money," said Estember, a 50-year-old ambulance driver.

Thousands of other people who sought shelter under the solid roof of the Tacloban City Astrodome also must improvise, taking water from wherever they can — a broken water pipe or a crumpled tarp. The water is salty and foul tasting but it is all many have had for days. […]

"I'm thirsty," said Lydia Advincula, 54, who for the last few days had been placing buckets out doors to catch some of the torrential downpours that have added to the misery of homeless storm survivors.

Water provisioning should get a big boost with the recent arrival of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George Washington, a virtual floating city with a distillation plant that can produce 1.5 million liters (400,000 gallons) of fresh water per day — enough to supply 2,000 homes, according to the ship's website.

Filtration systems are now operating in Tacloban, the center of the relief effort, and two other towns in Leyte province, the hardest-hit area. Helicopters are dropping bottled water along with other relief supplies to more isolated areas.

Other more high-tech water purification solutions are also available, such as water purification bottles developed since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated parts of Thailand, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka. Those contain systems that filter out parasites, bacteria and other dangerous substances from virtually any water source, making it safe to drink and alleviating the high cost and logistical difficulties that shipping in bottled water entails. […]

Long-term solutions are a distant concern for Jaime Llanera, 44, as he stands in a shelter he and his family have fashioned out of broken plywood and a tarpaulin.

A single 500-milliliter (12-ounce) bottle of mineral water delivered by the military three days earlier is all that's available for his parents, sister, brother-in-law and a friend. To stretch their supply, they've been collecting rainwater in buckets and any other containers they can find and boiling it. They're also using rainwater to clean: His mother dunks clothing into a bucket of rainwater and tries to scrub out the filth. [more]

Philippines Typhoon Survivors Desperate For Clean Water


Soldiers zip up body bags after families have identified their relatives who perished during Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban city, central Philippines, 13 November 2013. Photo: Edgar Su / Reuters

By Alexandra Zavis
16 November 2013

TACLOBAN, Philippines – In a hilltop cemetery, a truck stacked high with body bags backed up to a yawning trench. With no time for ceremony, police and firefighters wearing facemasks and plastic gloves unloaded the bags Saturday and placed them in a communal grave.

A week after one of the strongest typhoons on record swept through the central Philippines, bodies still lie in the streets of Tacloban, the hardest-hit city. Other corpses remain buried under towering piles of rubble.

Residents pick their way across fields of debris, jostling for aid at a growing number of distribution centers, or busy themselves with makeshift home repairs, wearing masks to block out the putrid smell that hangs over the city. Others wrap scarves around their faces or cover their noses with their shirts.

It has taken several days to assemble the personnel and equipment needed to bury the dead here. Local government structures were decimated by the typhoon known internationally as Haiyan and in the Philippines as Yolanda. Government employees were themselves victims of the storm; some remain unaccounted for.

Interior Secretary Max Roxas told reporters during a recent visit to Tacloban that there were just eight functioning trucks for the city of 220,000. Two of them are being used to collect cadavers, which have decayed rapidly in the stifling heat, said Dr. Bubi Arce, who is overseeing the effort.

Protective clothing and sufficient body bags had to be assembled with the help of national agencies including the Department of Health, armed forces and Philippine Red Cross.

“We were literally picking up bodies with our bare hands,” Arce said.

As of Saturday, the official death toll stood at 3,633 across the country with another 1,179 still missing. But the figures have been a subject of controversy.

A provincial police official who last weekend said that the final figure would likely climb to around 10,000 was removed from his post Thursday. International aid officials have endorsed the estimate, though President Benigno Aquino III and other Philippine officials say it is exaggerated.

One reason for the uncertainty is that many hard-hit villages remain out of reach because of debris-clogged roads, leaving victims unburied and uncounted. […]

The smell was overpowering. A firefighter leaned over and retched.

“Hard time,” commented a police officer, barely able to complete a sentence as he stepped to one side to catch his breath. “So many.” [more]

In Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan victims buried in communal grave


Despite thick oil slicking his hands, 14-year-old Giray Boreros uses a hacksaw Friday to collect scrap iron in the devastated fishing town of Estancia, Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan hit here with such force that a barge ran aground, spilling approximately 1.4 million liters of oil into the bay, according to the town's mayor. Photo: Jim Seida / NBC News

By Henry Austin and Alexander Smith
15 November 2013

(NBC News) – Survivors in remote areas of the Philippines devastated by Typhoon Haiyan said Friday that they had been ignored by relief efforts, even as aid began to reach some of the worst-affected zones.

The logistical logjam that delayed the distribution of international food and medical supplies is finally easing, but many rural islands communities have yet to receive any help.

Jose Barrios, a tourism worker, said the small island of Polopina, in the Concepcion municipality, had borne the full brunt of last week's deadly storm.

"Concepcion is completely wrecked," he told NBC News on Friday. "We don't have anything at all. People are asking for help. We need clean water, food, clothes. People have lost everything."

He said that with all the focus on ruined cities such as Tacloban and Cebu, areas like his were being neglected.

"The main focus right now is on Tacloban, and because we're pretty remote and no one knows our place, I guess they haven't noticed what we lost," he said. "Pretty much they are all focused on one place, and they are forgetting people who are in bad way. Of course, we feel bad for them, but we're in a bad way, too."

Barrios said that with no aid arriving, he was forced to make the perilous journey for supplies to Iloilo on the nearby island of Panay.

The U.N. said Thursday that the death toll from the monster typhoon had reached 4,200. The Philippine government disputes this figure, although its count jumped from around 2,360 to 3,631 on Friday.

The government added that the police official who told reporters that the death toll could be 10,000 had been removed from his post and counseled for stress, the Manila Times reported. A government spokeswoman said: "There is no attempt to hide or to fudge any figures."

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said Thursday that she acknowledged that aid should have been quicker in coming and more widely distributed.

"I think we are all extremely distressed that it is already day six and we have not managed to reach everyone," she told reporters in Manila.

East of Conception, on the badly hit island of Samar, residents of Marabut said they, too, felt overlooked by the relief effort.

"We feel totally forgotten," local government official Mildred Labado told The Associated Press. Medical supplies in the town were so short that people were covering wounds with masking tape instead of gauze and stoking fires with the wreckage of buildings.

"Help me!" some children in Marabut shouted to a journalist, according to the AP. "Put me on Facebook!" [more]

Typhoon Haiyan: 'Forgotten' survivors tell of desperate hunt for food


Corpses are collected and loaded on trucks to be taken to mass graves in typhoon-ravaged Tacloban city in the Philippines on 16 November 2013. Photo: CNN

By Michael Martinez, Jethro Mullen, and Ben Brumfield
16 November 2013

Tacloban, Philippines (CNN) – Desperation grew among Filipinos who've been without electricity or shelter for more than a week since Super Typhoon Haiyan reduced homes to splinters, prompting the military to alter rescue maneuvers, an official said Saturday.

"People swarm the helicopters, so we land the helicopters a little bit farther from the population areas," said Maj. Gen. Romer Poquiz of the Philippine Air Force. "So before the people come in, we would take off, go and drop in other places, drop and then go, drop, go, drop, go, at various places."

Several countries, including the U.S. military, continued to assist Philippine authorities in a massive relief effort of delivering food and water to the devastated swaths of the archipelago. The central government is being criticized for a slow and disorganized response to what all agree is a catastrophic disaster.

The U.S. military may rotate out the aircraft carrier group with the USS George Washington once amphibious ships arrive, a senior U.S. military official told CNN. Relief efforts were also showing a lot of field hospital capability, the official said.

Meanwhile, military planes and helicopters delivered foodstuffs, and some people carried all that remained of their possessions and were lucky enough to be ferried to refuge in Cebu.

U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Royal Navy's HMS Daring was scheduled to arrive Sunday morning and assist the relief efforts. An disclosed number of British nationals remain unaccounted for, Hague said.

The toll remains overwhelming with thousands dead, about 3 million people displaced, vast communities flattened and looting and violence erupting in Tacloban, a major city that's the ground zero in the super typhoon strike.

Crews continued to collect bodies from streets, with the death toll increased Sunday to 3,681, according to the official death count.

The number of injured stood at 12,544, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported. At least 1,186 were missing.

The death toll could still climb higher, with an additional 1,000 cadaver bags sent to provinces, the disaster council announced as search-and-rescue operations continued in Tacloban City.

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

Cadaver bags are cleaned before being reused, he said. […]

Under a hot sun, refugees held umbrellas as they waited in line for provisions. Some wore masks apparently as protection from the rot and decay of their obliterated communities.

The nation's disaster agency said between 9 million and 13 million people were affected in 44 provinces, 536 municipalities and 55 cities. [more]

Philippines typhoon disaster: Caring for the living, tending to the dead


An aerial shot shows oil spill at the coastal area as a result of the government-owned National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) power barge running aground when super typhoon Haiyan hit Estancia town, north of Iloilo, central Philippines, 14 November 2013. Photo: Leo Solinap / REUTERS

ILOILO (PNA) – Senate President Franklin Drilon instructed the National Power Corp. (Napocor) to fast-track the cleanup of the oil spill in Estancia town and, if necessary, to shoulder the expenses for it.

The Napocor should no longer dilly-dally on the cleanup operations because of the oil spill’s hazardous effect on the health of nearby residents, Drilon said.

For now, the Department of Health’s Center for Health Development 6 has recommended the evacuation of 30 families, the center’s director, Dr. Marilyn Convocar, said.

Cmdr. Athello Ybañez, commander of the Philippine Coast Guard 6, said the Napocor-owned Power Barge 103 was dislodged from its mooring station and ran aground at the rocky shoreline of Brgy. Botongon, Estancia, at the height of super typhoon “Yolanda” on November 8.

The barge’s punctured bottom hull containing 1,200,000 liters of fuel leaked out 200,000 liters, he said.

Of the amount of oil spill, he said, 150,000 liters have been washed ashore with the 50 liters on the water surface.

Ybañez acknowledged that the immediate removal of the oil spill is a must.

But with the present progress of the Coast Guard’s Oil Spill Response Team operation that started on November 11 and with only 75 personnel hired by the Manila-based Harbor Star Salvage Company, the cleanup is estimated to be completed by end of this month or early December, he said.

As of yesterday, the cleanup team has collected only 6,000 liters of spilled oil and two tons of contaminated debris. [more]

Speed up oil spill cleanup in Estancia

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