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November 17, 2013

Relief Coming to Outlying Typhoon Survivors in Philippines

by Simone Orendain

Relief supplies are getting to a larger number of survivors in the typhoon-stricken central Philippines, but there are still challenges.  The government has confirmed more than 3,600 deaths. 

Aid workers say there are visible signs that food and water are getting to people in need in the hardest hit parts of the central provinces.  Sunday, the government said it delivered about 115,000 food packages the previous day, a significant jump from the 45,000 it passed out Friday.

Many of the packages filled with rice and canned goods have been going to Tacloban, the hard-hit city of 220,000, which has so far posted the most deaths.  People there had been suffering as trucks bearing food and water could not get through for days on roads clogged with debris.

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Philippines President Benigno Aquino went to a relief goods warehouse in Tacloban Sunday and reassured victims there would be enough aid.  The president also visited the town in Eastern Samar province that took the very first lashings from Super Typhoon Haiyan.

Aquino spoke with the mayor and local officials in Guiuan on the Pacific coast.

He says, the government can rise up.  There are so many countries helping, the Philippines will be able to recover.  But if every place (small town) were to volunteer to help immediately, the process would be easier and faster.

In addition to Tacloban, Guiuan, farther east, is a staging ground for relief goods.  Those provisions are being sent to the outlying areas that had not received any aid since the typhoon hit more than a week ago.

The United States has stationed the aircraft carrier USS George Washington off the shores of Eastern Samar.  Its helicopters have flown more than 11 tons of aid to hard to reach areas.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said at the briefing in Guiuan that people in 15 eastern Samar towns have received food and water.  But still, delivery is slow-going because the Philippines’ own helicopters carry only 80 food kits at a time.

She told the president delivery would greatly speed up if they could use trucks with enough fuel starting from Guiuan because the goods are already there.

The scarcity of fuel for vehicles continues to be a challenge.  And while national roads are passable, only heavy-duty trucks can handle the rough patches left by the storm.

The latest figures from the Civil Defense Office indicate close to four million people have been left homeless by Haiyan.  And the government says it set a goal of delivering more than two million care packages in a two-week period. 

Close to four dozen countries have given about $127 million in funding and in-kind donations.  The government says the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tallied $20 million from American companies.

Photo gallery shot by Steve Herman in Ormoc, Philippines

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