Typhoon-hit victims in Philippines plead for aid

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Those caught in the storm were worried that aid would not arrive soon enough.

“We’re afraid that it’s going to get dangerous in town because relief goods are trickling in very slow,” said Bobbie Womack, an American missionary and longtime Tacloban resident from Athens, Tennessee. “I know it’s a massive, massive undertaking to try to feed a town of over 150,000 people. They need to bring in shiploads of food.”

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said he was considering declaring a state of emergency or martial law in Tacloban. A state of emergency usually includes curfews, price and food supply controls, military or police checkpoints and increased security patrols.

Haiyan hit the eastern seaboard of the Philippines on Friday and quickly barreled across its central islands, packing winds of 235 kph (147 mph) that gusted to 275 kph (170 mph).

It inflicted serious damage to at least six islands in the middle of the eastern seaboard, with Leyte, Samar and the northern part of Cebu appearing to bear the brunt of the storm.

Video from Eastern Samar province’s Guiuan township — the first area where the typhoon made landfall — showed a trail of devastation similar to Tacloban. Many houses were flattened and roads were strewn with debris and uprooted trees. The ABS-CBN video showed several bodies on the street, covered with blankets.

“I have no house, I have no clothes. I don’t know how I will restart my life. I am so confused,” an unidentified woman said, crying. “I don’t know what happened to us. We are appealing for help. Whoever has a good heart, I appeal to you — please help Guiuan.”

The United Nations said it was sending supplies but access to the worst hit areas was a challenge.

“Reaching the worst affected areas is very difficult, with limited access due to the damage caused by the typhoon to infrastructure and communications,” said UNICEF Philippines Representative Tomoo Hozumi.

The storm’s sustained winds weakened to 120 kph (74 mph) as the typhoon made landfall in northern Vietnam early Monday after crossing the South China Sea, according to the Hong Kong meteorological observatory. Authorities there evacuated hundreds of thousands of people, but there were no reports of significant damage or injuries.

It was downgraded to a tropical storm as it entered southern China later Monday, and weather officials forecast torrential rain over the coming 24 hours across southern China. Guangxi officials advised fishermen to stay onshore.

The Philippines, an archipelago nation of more than 7,000 islands, is annually buffeted by tropical storms and typhoons, which are called hurricanes and cyclones elsewhere. The impoverished and densely populated nation of 96 million people is in the northwestern Pacific, right in the path of the world’s No. 1 typhoon generator, according to meteorologists. The archipelago’s exposed eastern seaboard often bears the brunt.

Even by the standards of the Philippines, however, Haiyan is an epic catastrophe. Its winds were among the strongest ever recorded, and it appears to have killed more people than the previous deadliest Philippine storm, Thelma, in which about 5,100 people died in the central Philippines in 1991.

The country’s deadliest disaster on record was the 1976 magnitude-7.9 earthquake that triggered a tsunami in the Moro Gulf in the southern Philippines, killing 5,791 people.

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