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Urgently needing aid, Typhoon Haiyan survivors ‘fend for themselves’

November 12, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The president of the Philippines announced today the typhoon death toll may end up between 2,000 and 2,500, far below earlier estimates. But it was little comfort to thousands of survivors, especially in Tacloban, the city virtually destroyed by the storm. They grew ever more desperate, mobbing relief planes and pleading for help.

We have two reports from Independent Television News, beginning with Angus Walker, who’s in Tacloban.

ANGUS WALKER: In the ruins and the rain, survivors are now trying to rebuild their lives, but the misery goes on.

“What’s happening to my country? We have no food. Help is not coming,” she says.

In the search for food and water, looting is often the only option. He peeks over the wall of a warehouse, wary of the guards. Even the youngest are snatching what they can. Others are able to take more. Heavy downpours today, raising the risk of waterborne disease.

MAN: My — my heart is broken, teared apart.

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ANGUS WALKER: In his makeshift shelter, 61-year-old Edgaro Belo, sick from drinking contaminated water and still traumatized.

MAN: I could — I have not seen people like that, children. I was surrounded by bodies, decaying bugs. I don’t know how — how — how I have survived.

ANGUS WALKER: It’s called Bliss, the name of a housing project built for people who’d lost their homes in past typhoons. This time, it was no safe haven.

Bliss is made up of a maze of narrow alleyways, and when the typhoon struck, they filled with water within seconds to above roof height. And yet most survived, quickly climbing high enough to escape. But living is hard, long queues for empty shelves. Medicines are rationed. So, as evening approaches, barricades are manned, warnings to looters. The army patrols while the people of Tacloban fend for themselves.

JUDY WOODRUFF: John Sparks of Independent Television News joined anxious ferry passengers travelling to another hard-hit area today. Their five-hour journey began in Cebu City.

JOHN SPARKS: There wasn’t much interest today in the boat to Ormoc City, although several dozen climbed on board with bundles of food and clothing. They weren’t commuters or traders, and this wasn’t a routine trip.

For many, the 11:45 ferry was a voyage made in hope. They were looking for loved ones in a region decimated by last Friday’s typhoon. Still, the ferry captain told me that Ormoc City was in a terrible state.

JOSEPH MATILDO, captain (through interpreter): They are in a really bad situation. There’s no food, no water, no electricity. It is really terrible there.

JOHN SPARKS: For relatives desperate for news, the ferry is their only option, but it is an anxious journey.

What’s going through your mind right now?

NINO VINAS, Philippines: My family. They are in — near Tacloban. It’s below where — my one and only sister is living there. And I cannot even sleep for a few days in Manila thinking of that possibility that my sister is one of the victims in that kind of…

JOHN SPARKS: Have you been able to speak to her or communicate with her?

(CROSSTALK)

NINO VINAS: You know, I haven’t. I haven’t. I haven’t been able to have any communication with my sister.

JOHN SPARKS: One group had a different purpose: to provide aid and assistance to a badly affected community called Tacloban, but they were worried.

DAVE MELVINDANDOG, Philippines: We have heard that vehicles coming from — any vehicles going into Tacloban are being — there are roadblocks. People are hijacking the vehicles and getting the relief goods.

JOHN SPARKS: But you’re still going to go anyway?

DAVE MELVINDANDOG: Yes, but we’re going to go anyway.

MAN: We need to go.

DAVE MELVINDANDOG: We need to go.

JOHN SPARKS: After five hours at sea, Ormoc came into view. And we could see and smell the city.

Acrid smoke filled the air as residents burnt piles of debris. The storm had ripped off roofs from buildings in the port, while further inland, entire communities had been demolished. The first food aid arrived today, five days after the typhoon.

We haven’t got very far. The road into the city is blocked. But what we have seen has shocked us. This city of 250,000, a community of churches and homes and businesses, has clearly been brought to its knees. There are few, if any, basic services here. There’s no electricity. Residents live in the dark; some do their washing now by candlelight.

In the darkness over there, there’s a long queue of people waiting for bread. I don’t know if you can see them. Presently, there are only two places to buy bread in this city of a quarter-of-a-million, and this is one of them. Tonight, they were selling rolls. And customers queued up for hours to get some.

In this time of need, some have stepped forward. A hotel owner with access to a generator is offering people this essential service: a mobile phone charge.

Why is it so important to have a working phone?

ROMELL QUILANTANG, Philippines: Yes, because some of our phones have access to television, because our TV sets are all wet and destroyed. So, we need some — we need this kind of phone where we could watch national news, because there’s no relief goods yet coming, so we’re kind of looking for some information from the national government.

JOHN SPARKS: Ormoc is one of hundreds of communities that’s been left to cope on its own. But, for the moment, people here are making the best of a bad hand.