Philippines defends typhoon relief response

Minister says "nothing is fast enough" in such a situation, as country continues to struggle to get aid to survivors.

    The Philippine government has defended its efforts to deliver assistance to victims of Typhoon Haiyan, many of whom have received little or no help since the storm struck a week ago.

    The response comes as government officials give conflicting estimates of the death toll, which is expected to rise further when the missing are declared dead and remote regions reached.

    At least 600,000 people have been displaced, with authorities struggling to meet their immediate needs.

    "In a situation like this, nothing is fast enough,'' Mar Roxas, the interior secretary, said on Friday in Tacloban city, most of which was destroyed by the storm one week ago.

    "The need is massive, the need is immediate, and you can't reach everyone.''

    Given the scale of the disaster, and infrastructure and communications problems, the conflicting figures are not unusual.

    The spokesman for the country's civil defence agency, Major Reynaldo Balido, said early on Friday that the toll had risen to 2,360, hours after the UN issued conflicting reports on how many people had died.

    On the ground in Tacloban, authorities handed out a situation report stating that 3,422 people had been killed on Samar and Leyte islands, the two most affected areas.

    Communication woes

    Al Jazeera's Veronica Pedrosa, reporting from Ormoc City near Tacloban, said the extent of the destruction was enormous.

    She said the health department's contingency plan had become obsolete because reserve aid for such disasters, which had been held up in Tacloban, had been destroyed in the typhoon's wake.

    Forgotten victims on small Philippines Island

    She said communication between central Philippines and outlying areas such as Ormoc City remained a probem as well.

    "Some of the outlying areas have not heard from the central government as yet," our correspondent said.

    She officials were grappling with the magnitude of the disaster because the Philippine government systems were not as developed as in other countries.

    The pace of the aid effort has picked up over the last 24 hours, according to reporters who have been in the region for several days.

    "But local governments are getting on with it and trying to organise themselves," she said.

    Aid distributed

    Foreign governments are sending food, water, medical supplies and trained staff to the region. Lorries and generators have also begun to arrive.

    A US aircraft carrier was moored off the Philippine coast, as it was preparing for a major relief mission.

    The fleet of helicopters on board is expected to drop food and water to the worst affected areas.

    Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay, reporting from Cebu, said food had begun to arrive, and distribution had also begun.

    A week after the storm, disaster continues

    "The plane arrives very quickly, it is unloaded quickly, but some of it sits on the tarmac and waits to get distributed."

    He said this had been the cause of much frustration but that once the aid had been distributed to local governments, there was further frustration.

    Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas, reporting from Tacloban city, said people were accusing local officials of giving their friends and family preference to the aid.

    Ricky Carandang, a presidential spokesman, said he could not comment on this, but that relief operations were now under way.

    "The aid is being distributed in all the towns in Leyte Island, not just Tacloban."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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