Philippines calls for help as huge rescue operation begins after typhoon Haiyan
A huge rescue operation is under way in the Philippines to help the victims of typhoon Haiyan, which may have killed more than 10,000 people in the city of Tacloban alone.
President Benigno Aquino, who landed in Tacloban on Sunday to get a firsthand look at the disaster, said the casualties “will be substantially more” than the official count of 151, but gave no figure or estimate. He said the government’s priority was to restore power and communications in isolated areas to allow for the delivery of relief and medical assistance to victims.
The Philippines does not have sufficient resources on its own to deal with a disaster of this magnitude, and the US and other governments and agencies were mounting a major relief effort, said Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon.
At the request of the Philippine government, the US defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, directed US Pacific Command to deploy ships and aircraft to support search-and-rescue operations and airlift emergency supplies, according to a statement released by the department.
The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said in a message to Aquino that the EC had sent a team to assist the Philippine authorities and that “we stand ready to contribute with urgent relief and assistance if so required in this hour of need”.
If the typhoon death toll is confirmed, it would be the deadliest natural catastrophe on record in the Philippines.
The airport in Tacloban, about 360 miles south-east of Manila, looked like a muddy wasteland of debris, with crumpled tin roofs and upturned cars. The airport tower’s glass windows were shattered, and air force helicopters were busy flying in and out at the start of relief operations. Residential homes that had lined a four-mile stretch of road leading to Tacloban city were all blown or washed away.
The winds were so strong that Tacloban residents who sought shelter at a local school tied down the roof of the building, but it was still ripped off and the school collapsed, Lim said. It wasn’t clear how many died there.
“The devastation is, I don’t have the words for it,” interior secretary Mar Roxas said. “It’s really horrific. It’s a great human tragedy.”
Defence secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Aquino was “speechless” when he told him of the devastation the typhoon had wrought in Tacloban.
“I told him all systems are down,” Gazmin said. “There is no power, no water, nothing. People are desperate. They’re looting.”
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