Philippine typhoon relief hampered by delays

UN launches $300m appeal to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan as aid workers scramble to distribute aid.

    The United Nations has launched a $300m appeal to help victims of the devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan amid concerns about delays in delivering relief aid to those who need it.

    Typhoon Haiyan smashed into central Philippine islands last Friday, leaving thousands dead and 673,000 others homeless.

    Praising the international community's response to Haiyan, Valerie Amos, the UN humanitarian chief, said in the capital Manila that more needed to be done to help the victims.

    "We've just launched an action plan focusing on the areas of food, health, sanitation, shelter, debris removal and also protection of the most vulnerable with the government and I very much hope our donors will be generous," she told reporters.

    "That plan is for $301 million dollars," Amos said, adding it was over and above other sums already pledged and did not include $25m that the UN's central emergency response fund has made available.

    "At this point in time it's extremely difficult even to get a sense of what the immediate needs are because it is very difficult to get to some of the areas affected."

    Disfigured bodies

    Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay, reporting from Tacloban, one of the worst affected cities, described scenes of bodies still lying in the streets and decaying in the sun, five days after the typhoon hit.

    "People simply have to walk pass those bodies, which is raising concerns about the health situation over the weeks and months ahead," he said.

    "Despite the state of emergency declared by the government and a night time curfew, people are increasingly concerned about intruders coming into their homes looking for any valuables they may have."

    He said "there does not appear to be much relief work going on" but added that some military trucks were delivering some food and water.

    Death toll estimates questioned

    Meanwhile, President Benigno Aquino said that the death toll was closer to 2,000 or 2,500, not the previously reported figure of 10,000.

    International Aid Pledges 

    US -  aircraft carrier with 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft aboard to join 180 US Marines already on the ground

    Britain - aid boosted to $15.8m and destroyer sent from Singapore, as well as a transport plane

    UAE -  $10m

    Australia - $9.38m, with a team of medics set to leave on Wednesday

    Japan - $10m in grants to provide evacuees with emergency shelters and other assistance, plus 40-strong military detachment

    Indonesia - $2m in cash and emergency supplies, with a Hercules aircraft set to carry food, medicines, water filters and generators

    China -  $100,000

    "Ten thousand, I think, is too much," Aquino said in an interview posted on CNN's website.

    He said local officials who provided that estimate may have been too close to the destruction to give an accurate figure.

    "There was emotional drama involved with that particular estimate," he said.

    Rain and strong winds were further adding to the logistic hassles caused by damage to roads, airports and seaports.

    "Heavy downpours are adding to the misery across much of the central and southern Philippines. Some parts have seen 50 to 80mm of rain during the last 24 hours and they may see similar amounts over the next 24 hours," Al Jazeera's meteorologist Everton Fox said.

    Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen, reporting from the island of Cebu, where several cities were devastated, said the situation there was becoming "really, really desperate", with residents lacking food, water, electricity and means of communications.

    "People are stopping cars, begging for food," she said.

    Foreign governments and international aid organisations meanwhile continued pledging tens of millions of dollars in emergency funds and supplies while several countries were sending warships.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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