[QODLink]
Features

Typhoon Haiyan devastation slows aid efforts

NGOs, not the Philippine government, have been first to respond in some of the worst-hit areas.

Last updated: 15 Nov 2013 11:57
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Towns along the Maharlika Highway were devastated by the typhoon [Ted Regencia/Al Jazeera]

Tanauan, Philippines - Huddled in a room with their headlamps providing the only source of light, Michael Karch and his team of medical professionals looked like miners ready for a dig. Tarps protected them from the rain, as they carried out their relief work inside the roofless and flooded town hall of Tanauan, one of the areas hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan last week.

On Tuesday night, the group of American doctors and nurses assisted Ann Cheryl Orongan, a local resident, as she gave birth following an emergency Caesarian operation.

"We try not to do a C-section in situations like this," said David Page, a coordinator from the humanitarian organisation Mammoth Medical Missions. "So this was very tense." As one of the volunteers swaddled her in blankets, the newborn let out loud and repeated wails.

Starting to rebuild in the Philippines

The birth was welcome news for the storm-weary town, which saw all of its villages facing the Pacific Ocean wiped out from the storm surge last Friday, leaving hundreds dead or missing. But it also highlighted the Philippine government's slow response to the disaster, leaving homeless and hungry survivors to look after their own welfare. 

"I don't know what we would have done if these doctors were not here," Reynald Bahin, the baby's father, told Al Jazeera. 

For at least three days, debris and fallen trees have blocked the roads into Tanauan, keeping it in near total isolation. The Mammoth team was headed for Chiapas, Mexico when they learned of the disaster in central Philippines, prompting a last-minute reroute.

By Sunday, they were onboard four helicopters heading to Tanauan, 18 kilometres south of Tacloban, the provincial capital of Leyte. Landing by the beach, the team reached the town centre on foot. Along the way they passed dead bodies, some wedged in mounds of debris, Page said.

The team then set up a medical centre inside the town hall. As of Tuesday, they had delivered nine babies and performed 55 surgeries, including amputations. Other medical organisations like Doctors Without Borders and Physicians for Peace have also pitched in to help elsewhere in the central Philippines.

Aside from the injured, doctors also had curb the spread of diseases, such as cholera and typhus, among the evacuees.

Between Tacloban and other Pacific Coast towns to the south like Palo, Tanauan, Tolosa and MacArthur, ruined houses line the entire 60-kilometre segment of the Maharlika (Nobility) Highway. 

We're going to get through this. We can't lose hope.

- Penelope Tecson, Tanauan resident

Some parts of the road were completely covered in sand, making it difficult for vehicles to manoeuvre. Tangled wires from downed telephone and electric poles served as added obstacles. Homeless families sat by the road, and children held up signs begging for food from motorists. Others were building tents from scrapped tin roofs, wood and bamboo. By the mountainside heading to Tanauan, coconut tree trunks were scattered like matchsticks.

"We're going to get through this," Penelope Tecson, wife of Tanauan's mayor, told Al Jazeera. "We can't lose hope."

A strong smell emanated from behind the town hall, where a mass grave had been dug. However, it was not big enough to accommodate the corpses that have been piling up.

According to Tecson, town officials listed about 1,000 people missing and between 600 to 1,000 dead. There is not enough manpower to help with burials, as survivors are desperately looking for food and water.

Hoping that her family was still alive, Corazon Coritana decided to go home from neighbouring Samar Island. It took her overnight to reach Leyte province, just across the San Juanico Bridge. From there, she walked for hours before reaching Tanauan. 

"I feel like I was walking into a set of a horror movie," Coritana told Al Jazeera. Her family barely survived. Her cousins Raffy and Archie Garcia were caught in the surge and drifted to the next village, swimming alongside debris and dead bodies.

Her family has now left Tanauan to seek refuge in southern Leyte. "We can't stay in Tanauan for now, because I can't let my homeless family die from hunger," Coritana said.

In the town of Tolosa, Al Jazeera met Ruel Robedillos after he collected a two-kilogram bag of rice - a donation for his family of six. "We had no idea what a storm surge was," he said. When it came, it swept his house away. Robedillos said his family clung to a coconut tree that was left standing.

"We are just lucky to be alive," said Robedillos.

921

Source:
Al Jazeera
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
President Poroshenko arrives in Washington on Thursday with money and military aid on his mind, analysts say.
Early players in private medicine often focused on volume over quality, turning many Chinese off for-profit care.
Al Jazeera asked people across Scotland what they think about the prospect of splitting from the United Kingdom.
With social media dominating communication among young Americans, taunting is no longer confined to school hours.
Referendum on Scottish independence is the first major election in the UK where 16 and 17-year olds get a vote.
join our mailing list