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Frustrated families bring aid to Philippine typhoon survivors
by Staff Writers
Ormoc, Philippines (AFP) Nov 16, 2013

Global aid converges on Philippines eight days after Haiyan
Manila (AFP) Nov 16, 2013 - Spearheaded by a US aircraft carrier group, foreign relief efforts have stepped up a gear in the storm-devastated Philippines eight days after Super Typhoon Haiyan left thousands dead and millions homeless.

Ships and planes from Asia-Pacific nations and Europe have converged on the belt of Philippine islands hardest hit by the typhoon, one of strongest storms to ever make landfall.

The air and sea-lift has also brought in emergency medical and shelter supplies from global humanitarian groups who have warned of the dangers facing remote, hard-to-access communities.

The United States, which used to rule the Philippines, is by far the greatest contributor to the effort, spearheaded by the giant USS George Washington.

Below is a breakdown of the international aid being offered:

-- In addition to the delivery of relief supplies, US military aircraft have logged nearly 480 flight hours in 186 aircraft sorties, moved nearly 1,200 relief workers into hard-hit Tacloban city and airlifted nearly 2,900 displaced people from the affected areas to date.

-- Over the last 24 hours, more than 118 tons of food, water and shelter items have been delivered to Tacloban, Borongan and Guiuan, the US military said.

-- More than 600 US military personnel are currently on the ground in the Philippines, with 6,200 sailors supporting air operations from the USS George Washington strike group. An additional 1,000 Marines and Sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are expected to arrive in approximately five days.

-- Eight American MV-22 Ospreys -- rotor planes that can take off and land like helicopters -- are currently in operation, and eight more are being deployed.

-- In other contributions, Britain is sending its largest naval ship, the helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious. Also from Britain, heavy transport planes carrying equipment such as 4X4 vehicles and forklift trucks have already arrived.

-- British Prime Minister David Cameron announced Saturday that Britain was providing a further $48 million to help the relief effort, on top of $37 million already pledged.

-- The United Nations, which had launched an appeal for $301 million dollars in relief funding, said Friday it had so far received $72 million.

-- Japan has tripled its emergency aid package to more than $30 million and is preparing to send up to 1,000 troops, in what would be the country's biggest foreign deployment since World War II.

-- The European Union upped its contribution by $7.0 million on Saturday to $20 million.

-- Australia has provided three C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, and the amphibious landing vessel HMAS Tobruk.

-- Other C-130s -- a warhorse of relief operations the world over -- are being deployed by countries including India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan and Thailand, as well as by UN agencies and private charities.

-- Other military transporters and aid flights have arrived or are en route from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain among others.

-- China, which is locked in a territorial dispute with the Philippines, has promised $1.6 million of aid, mainly in tents and blankets, after widespread criticism of its initial modest response of a $100,000 government donation.

As thousands queue to leave the devastation wreaked by the huge Philippines typhoon, a stream of passengers carrying food, medicine and water comes the other way, desperate to help family stuck in the medieval horror of the disaster zone.

Some have travelled half way around the world to rescue parents or siblings, while others scraped together all they could from poorly-paid jobs in Manila, begging and borrowing from friends.

"That's my village," sobbed Nick Cantuja, pointing to the shoreline as her ferry docked in the smashed city of Ormoc. "Our house is gone now. Everything... it's gone," she told AFP.

Cantuja, who works as a driver for a family in Manila, was coming back to Ormoc with as much as she could carry to help relatives left destitute when one of the most powerful storms ever recorded barrelled through the central Philippines on November 8.

"There is little relief reaching my village," she said. "My family, my cousins, my neighbours -- they are all experiencing hunger and thirst.

"Yesterday, a Red Cross team was able to reach there but it's not enough," she added.

Cantuja, 37, borrowed money from friends in Manila to fill two big boxes with rice, noodles, sardines, coffee, candles, flashlights and anything else she could gather to tide over her four brothers and sisters and their families.

She also brought large sheets of canvas for a makeshift tent that would protect them from the elements in a part of the country where the downpours can be fierce.

Other passengers in the ship were bringing chain saws to help clear debris and generators to provide electricity. Officials say it will be weeks -- months, maybe -- before power is properly restored.

The United Nations estimates that 13 million people were affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Around 1.9 million lost their homes.

Thousands are dead, many more are fleeing scenes of almost unimaginable horror; whole cities laid to waste, where corpses fester on the side of roads.

Many of the arriving ferry passengers were met by emotional family, the joy at seeing relatives again tempered by the awfulness of their plight.

But most of those at the pier in Ormoc are trying to leave, jostling for a place on a ferry to Cebu.

On Friday, hundreds of people lined up under a scorching sun, some of them cradling babies or holding young children in their arms. Many are from Ormoc, while others are from Tacloban, the city hardest hit by the monster typhoon.

"I want to leave!" shouted one woman. "There's no food to eat, no water to drink. There's no power."

The devastation in Ormoc is absolute.

Not a single house in the town appears to have been spared by the 315 kilometre (196 mile) per hour winds that ripped off roofs, toppled trees and felled cables.

Help is getting through, but it is frustratingly slow.

Helicopters from the US military, which has set up a relief base at a nearby airport, hovered above the town as hundreds of people on the street below waved their arms in the hope they would bring food or water.

"Drop some on us," shouted someone in the crowd. "We haven't eaten a good meal for days".

Elsewhere in the city of roughly 190,000 people, survivors mill around areas where relief supplies are being distributed or form long lines at the few remaining petrol stations, hoping for a few litres of fuel to ride their motorcycles away.

For Servantes Reamillo, arriving at Ormoc was the end of a long journey.

The 36-year-old aircraft maintenance worker was granted leave by his company in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to fly to the Philippines to help his mother, nephew, brother and fiancee.

"A lot of things are in the news and I want to see them for myself to make sure they are okay," he told AFP.

But Reamillo wasn't bringing food that would last a few weeks; he was here to take his family to the capital, where he also owns a house.

"They will stay in Manila for a while," he said. "There is nothing here in Ormoc."


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US carrier spearheads Philippine relief effort
Aboard Uss George Washington, Philippines (AFP) Nov 15, 2013
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