‘Absolute bedlam’ amid aid struggle after Typhoon Haiyan

Power cut hits Cebu city, a key location for the relief effort, writes Peter Murtagh in Manilla

Children hold signs asking for help and food along the highway after Typhoon Haiyan hit Tabogon town in Cebu province. Photograph: Reuters/Charlie Saceda

Children hold signs asking for help and food along the highway after Typhoon Haiyan hit Tabogon town in Cebu province. Photograph: Reuters/Charlie Saceda

Wed, Nov 13, 2013, 08:29

The central Philippine city that is supposed to be the jumping- off point for delivering aid to typhoon-devastated areas was in darkness last night due to a power failure.

Cebu city, on an island of the same name, lies southwest of the island province of Leyte. More than 60 per cent of Leyte’s main city, Tacloban, is reported to have been destroyed by Friday’s storm. There are fears of more bad weather to come, this time graded as a tropical depression as opposed to a typhoon on the scale of Haiyan, which ripped through the central Philippines at speeds of up to 260km/h.

Yesterday, the depression seemed to be delivering little more than rain and high winds.
However, any significant further deterioration in the weather could have a fatal impact on the hundreds of thousands of people left homeless and without food and water.  


Death toll
The death toll from the disaster is closer to 2,000 or 2,500 than the 10,000 previously estimated, President Benigno Aquino said yesterday. Reports here say nine million people have been affected by what happened, including four million children and 4,600 pregnant women. Many who lost their homes remain without shelter and are in danger of being exposed to the spread of disease from rotting corpses and a breakdown in the sewage system.

The airport at Cebu has been designated the main assembly point for aid, short of delivery to Leyte and other parts of this scattered archipelago. Helicopters and ferries will be able to deliver food, water, blankets and tents from there across the Camotes Sea to Leyte and the neighbouring island of Samar.  

Little is known about the effects of the typhoon beyond Tacloban, though helicopter surveys have revealed numerous rural villages have been all but wiped out. Coastal communities, of which there are many around the archipelago’s vast coastline, are also feared to have fared badly.


Town ‘largely destroyed’
The head of the country’s Red Cross said that it was “absolute bedlam” inside the regions worst affected. Some towns north of Cebu have been assessed as 80 to 90 per cent destroyed. The BBC said the town of Guiuan, east of Tacloban and with a population 40,000, had been “largely destroyed”. No one knows what the death toll there might be.