Relief workers struggle to provide life-saving services to typhoon survivors
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The devastation in the Philippines has overwhelmed that government’s ability to provide relief to typhoon victims. One supplier, the country’s air force, struggled today with limited supplies and access to remote areas.
We have a report from Alex Thomson of Independent Television News.
ALEX THOMSON: It can be agonizingly slow. Brigadier General Quiapo is not happy. He wants more aid to distribute. There are remote areas, hungry people. Time is slipping by.
So they push out what they have got into the waiting helicopters, the 206th Tactical Helicopter Squadron of the Philippines air force now a lifesaving rice delivery service. Out over this shattered, saturated landscape, there are people who have still not been reached.
South from Roxas, the provincial capital, to a remote fishing village apparently cut off by flooding, desperate, hungry, they are alerted by the noise and come from nowhere. Smiles that say it all, but the payload is puny. This is over in seconds, even as others arrive in hope. At that point, we were ordered back on board.
Back at the civilian airport commandeered by the military, you soon realize, this air bridge is itself completely dependent on the incoming C-130s and the aid they can bring in from the capital.
BRIG. GEN. ARNOLD QUIAPO, Philippine Army: We cannot fail our countrymen. And we have to do our job. It’s a very taxing job, but we have to help our countrymen.
ALEX THOMSON: We waited and we waited, but another expected delivery of rice simple didn’t arrive. So the mission into the interior late this afternoon and the mountains was purely about water.
Our pilot made three passes, and still the ridge was too precarious to actually hit land. So a few seconds of hovering and vital water delivered, any way you can, so long as it’s fast. So it is that the lifeline of drinking water comes not from the village wells anymore, but from the 206th Tactical Helicopter Squadron.
Today, President Aquino declared a state of calamity, essentially a way of stopping profiteering and looting and freeing up state funds to get aid where it is needed. Night has fallen and they have come down from their shattered villages in the mountains to live here now, in a primary school, four families in this one small classroom, no power, no running water. One mother has already come down with chicken pox.
Outside, Analissa Delgado cooks tuna donated by a charity.
WOMAN: They have no food to eat anymore. They have no water.
ALEX THOMSON: A few feet away, tiny Inista Bowlas. He was born the day before the typhoon, rendered homeless on the second day of his life.
Such is the scale of what is happening here, that these people will be considered fortunate by the standards of some in this region. Yes, they are homeless and destitute, but they are at least alive and unhurt.