Typhoon-hit victims in Philippines plead for aid

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TACLOBAN, Philippines (AP) — Typhoon-ravaged Philippine islands faced an unimaginably huge recovery effort that had barely begun Monday, as bloated bodies lay uncollected and uncounted in the streets and survivors pleaded for food, water and medicine.

Police guarded stores to prevent people from hauling off food, water and such non-essentials as TVs and treadmills, but there was often no one to carry away the dead — not even those seen along the main road from the airport to Tacloban, the worst-hit city along the country’s remote eastern seaboard.


SEE ALSO: Philippine typhoon death toll climbs; 10,000 thought dead in 1 city alone


At a small naval base, eight bloated corpses — including that of a baby — were submerged in sea water brought in by the storm. Officers there had yet to move them, saying they had no body bags or electricity to preserve them.

Two officials said Sunday that Friday’s typhoon may have killed 10,000 or more people, but with the slow pace of recovery, the official death toll remained well below that. The Philippine military confirmed 942 dead, but shattered communications, transportation links and local governments indicate that the final toll will take days to be known. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said “we pray” that the death toll is less than 10,000.

Tacloban resembled a garbage dump from the air, punctuated only by a few concrete buildings that remained standing.

“I don’t believe there is a single structure that is not destroyed or severely damaged in some way — every single building, every single house,” U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy said after taking a helicopter flight over the city. He spoke on the tarmac at the airport, where two Marine C-130 cargo planes were parked, engines running, unloading supplies.

Authorities said at least 2 million people in 41 provinces were affected by Haiyan, one of the most powerful recorded typhoons to ever hit land and likely the deadliest natural disaster to beset this poor Southeast Asian nation.

Philippine soldiers were distributing food and water in Tacloban, and assessment teams from the United Nations and other international agencies were seen for the first time. The U.S. military dispatched food, water, generators and a contingent of Marines to the city, the first outside help in what will swell into a major international relief mission.

“Please tell my family I’m alive,” said Erika Mae Karakot, a survivor on Tacloban’s Leyte island, as she lined up for aid. “We need water and medicine because a lot of the people we are with are wounded. Some are suffering from diarrhea and dehydration due to shortage of food and water.”

Authorities had evacuated some 800,000 people ahead of the typhoon, but many evacuation centers — brick-and-mortar schools, churches and government buildings — could not withstand the winds and water surges. Officials said people who had huddled in these buildings drowned or were swept away.

Emily Ortega, 21 and about to give birth, was among those who had thought she was safe. But the evacuation center she had fled to was devastated by the 6-meter (20-foot) storm surge, and she had to swim and cling to a post to survive. She reached safety at the airport, where she gave birth to a baby girl. Bea Joy Sagales appeared in good health, and her arrival drew applause from others in the airport and military medics who assisted in the delivery.

The winds, rains and coastal storm surges transformed neighborhoods into twisted piles of debris, blocking roads and trapping decomposing bodies underneath. Ships were tossed inland, cars and trucks swept out to sea and bridges and ports washed away.

“In some cases the devastation has been total,” said Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras.

Residents have stripped malls, shops and homes of food, water and consumer goods. Officials said some of the looting smacked of desperation but in other cases items taken included TVs, refrigerators, Christmas trees and a treadmill. An Associated Press reporter in the town said he saw around 400 special forces and soldiers patrolling downtown to guard against further chaos.

Brig. Gen. Kennedy said Philippine forces were handling security well, and that his forces were “looking at how to open up roads and land planes and helicopters. We got shelter coming in. (The U.S. Agency for International Development) is bringing in water and supplies.”

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