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Rescue efforts hampered by devastation in Philippines


Rescue workers struggled on Monday to reach areas of the Philippines devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, which killed an estimated 10,000 people in the city of Tacloban alone.


Relief efforts were slowed by extensive damage in the Philippines on Monday as a picture of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan, thought to be the most powerful storm ever to hit the country, gradually became clearer.

The United Nations has confirmed that an estimated 10,000 people were killed in the coastal city of Tacloban, one of the areas hardest hit, adding that it feared the death toll could rise with thousands others still reported missing. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands have been displaced, their homes reduced to little more than debris by winds as strong as 378 kph (235 mph).

As relief efforts got underway on Monday, three days after the storm, it became apparent that the scale of damage was far greater than expected. Entire towns had been levelled in the central Philippines, and survivors in Tacloban told of being swept away by a wall of water about five metres high (16 feet).

‘We’re still just beginning to understand how widespread the damage is’

“The situation is bad, the devastation has been significant. In some cases the devastation has been total,” Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras told a news conference.

Slowed by the extensive destruction, rescue workers have struggled to reach affected areas with roads, communications, water and power supplies cut off.

“Relief efforts are being hampered. We were at the army headquarters, the air force space, here in Cebu City earlier and we were speaking to the officers in charge there, and there really was a sense of being overwhelmed by the task ahead of them,” FRANCE 24’s correspondent Ismail Wolff reported from the Philippines’ central Cebu City.

“Of course the United States, the European Commission and others have offered aid, but that aid has still yet to get here. And the issue really that we’re really looking at here is that although the aid in terms of supplies and even manpower has come, at the moment reaching many of these areas is impossible and we’re going to get a clearer picture over the next 24 hours of how widespread the damage is,” Wolff said.

National state of calamity

Philippines President Benigno Aquino declared a national state of calamity, which allows the government to set price controls and quickly release emergency funds.

Aquino also sent 800 troops to Tacloban, where looting had broken out. Many typhoon survivors have been forced to scavenge for clean water, food, shelter and medicine, as they remain cut off from aid.

Speaking in a nationwide broadcast, Aquino said that the government had decided to focus relief on the country’s Samar and Leyte provinces, which were directly hit by the storm. Aquino also said his administration had set aside 18.7 billion pesos ($432.97 million) for rehabilitation.

Twenty-one countries have promised to send aid, including Indonesia, the United States, Britain, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand and Hungary, Aquino said.

Many international organisations and aid groups, such as the United Nations, the Red Cross and the International Rescue Committee, have also mounted major relief efforts.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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