Typhoon Aftermath Raises Worries Of Disaster Zone Descending Into Chaos

By: CBS/AP (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
By: CBS/AP (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
Five long days after Typhoon Haiyan wasted the eastern seaboard of the Philippines, the cogs of what promises to be a massive international aid effort are beginning to turn, but not quickly enough for the estimated 600,000 people displaced, many of them homeless, hungry and thirsty.

An aerial view shows signs for help and food amid the destruction left from Typhoon Haiyan in the coastal town of Tanawan, Philippines, Nov. 13, 2013. / AP Photo

TACLOBAN, Philippines (AP/CBS) Mobs overran a rice warehouse on the island worst hit by the Philippine typhoon, setting off a wall collapse that killed eight people and carting off thousands of sacks of the grain, while security forces Wednesday exchanged gunfire with an armed gang.

The incidents in or close to the storm-ravaged city hosting international relief efforts add to concerns about the slow pace of aid distribution and that parts of the disaster zone are descending into chaos.

Five long days after Typhoon Haiyan wasted the eastern seaboard of the Philippines, the cogs of what promises to be a massive international aid effort are beginning to turn, but not quickly enough for the estimated 600,000 people displaced, many of them homeless, hungry and thirsty.

"There's a bit of a logjam to be absolutely honest getting stuff in here," said U.N. staffer Sebastian Rhodes Stampa against the roar of a C-130 transport plane landing behind him at the airstrip in Tacloban, one of the hardest-hit cities.

"It's almost all in country - either in Manila or in Cebu, but it's not here. We're going to have a real challenge with logistics in terms of getting things out of here, into town, out of town, into the other areas," he said. "The reason for that essentially is that there are no trucks, the roads are all closed."

CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reported from Tacloban that, with no clean drinking water in sight, some people tapped into an underground pipe just so they could fill up containers.

"We don't know if it's safe," one man said. "We'll need to boil it, but at least we have something."

Jaimie Fernandez lost his home. There is very little left for him and his family to live on. "We can't buy food or get food from other stores," Fernandez told CBS News, "because there are no stores to buy them in."

Planes, ships and trucks were all on their way to the region, loaded with generators, water purifying kits and emergency lights - vital equipment needed to sustain a major relief mission. Airports were reopening in the region, and the U.S. military said it was installing equipment to allow the damaged Tacloban aiport to operate 24-7.

"The priority has got to be, let's get the food in, let's get the water in. We got a lot more come in today, but even that won't be enough. We really need to scale up operation in an ongoing basis," U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told reporters after touring Talcoban, the capital of Leyte province. Her office has released $25 million in emergency relief fund, accounting for a chunk of the millions of dollars pledged by countries around the world.

Tacloban's mayor, Alfred Romualdez, urged residents to flee the city because local authorities were having trouble providing food and water and maintaining order, The New York Times reported. He said the city was in desperate need of trucks to distribute relief shipments that were accumulating at the city's airport as well as equipment to pull decaying corpses from the rubble.

Eight people were crushed to death when the mob stormed a rice warehouse around 15 miles from Tacloban on Tuesday and carried off thousands of sacks of grain, according to National Food Authority spokesman Rex Estoperez.

On Wednesday, gunfire broke out close to the city's San Juanico bridge on Wednesday between security forces and armed men, but the circumstances were unclear, according to footage on local TV.

Since the storm, people have broken into homes, malls and garages, where they have stripped the shelves of food, water and other goods. Authorities have struggled to stop the looting. There have been unconfirmed reports of armed gangs of robbers operating in a systematic manner.

An 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew was in place across the region. Despite incidents, police said the situation was improving.

"We have restored order," said Carmelo Espina Valmoria, director of the Philippine National Police special action force. "There has been looting for the last three days, but the situation has stabilized."

The death toll rose to 2,344, according a national tally kept by the disaster agency. That figure is expected to rise, perhaps significantly, when accurate information is collected from the entirety of the disaster zone, which spreads over a wide swath of the eastern and central Philippines but appears to be concentrated on two main islands, Leyte and Samar.

The congressman for Eastern Samar province, a coastal region that bore the full force of the storm, said 211 had been killed there and 45 were missing. He said some villages have been wiped out, with practically no structures standing. In one town, bodies remain lying on the road because help has not come to retrieve or bury them. Other towns have conducted mass burials.

"The situation there was horrible," Ben Evardone told a local television station. "Some communities disappeared, entire villages were wiped out. They were shouting 'food, food, food!' when they saw me."

Meanwhile, a run-down, single-story building with filthy floors at Tacloban's ruined airport has become the area's main medical center for victims. It has little medicine, virtually no facilities and very few doctors.

What it is not short of are patients.

Hundreds of injured people, pregnant women, children and the elderly have poured into the squat, white building behind the control tower. Doctors who have so far been dealing with cuts, fractures and pregnancy complications said Wednesday they soon expect to be treating more serious problems such as pneumonia, dehydration, diarrhea and infections.

Doane reported Tuesday evening that he visited a state-run government hospital and was told that it was really struggling to deal with the patients it had. He observed people with relatively simple injuries that had become life threatening because hospital didn't have the blood supply and it couldn't airlift patients out. He further added that the hospital was operating on generator power but after the typhoon it was stitching wounds by candlelight. One of the biggest problems is no food -- and it was at a government-run hospital.

U.S. Brig Gen. Paul Kennedy promised a response akin to the widely praised U.S. military one after the 2004 Asian tsunami, when fleets of helicopters dropped water and food to hundreds of isolated communities along the coast.

"You are not just going to see Marines and a few planes and some helicopters," Kennedy said. "You will see the entire Pacific Command respond to this crisis."

A Norwegian ship carrying supplies left from Manila, while an Australian air force transport plane took off from Canberra carrying a medical team. British and American navy vessels are also en route to the region.

At the Tacloban airport, a doctor said supplies of antibiotics and anesthetics arrived Tuesday for the first time.

"Until then, patients had to endure the pain," said Dr. Victoriano Sambale.

Doane also reported that U.S. military flights are now operating 24 hours a day from nearby Cebu airport, ferrying in aid and medical supplies.

Relief officials said comparing the pace of this operation to those in past disasters was largely pointless because each posed unique challenges.

In Indonesia's Aceh, the worst-hit region by the 2004 tsunami, relief hubs were easier to set up than in Tacloban. The main airport there was functioning 24-7 within a couple of days of the disaster. While devastation in much of the city of Banda Aceh was total, large inland parts of the city were undamaged, providing a base for aid operations and temporary accommodation for the homeless.

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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