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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Typhoon: after battle to survive, the struggle to live
by Staff Writers
Tacloban, Philippines (AFP) Nov 14, 2013


Slashed and stabbed as fear rules typhoon-ravaged Philippine city
Tacloban, Philippines (AFP) Nov 13, 2013 - As anarchy spread across a Philippine city demolished by one of the world's strongest typhoons, a 13-year-old boy holding a toy car and walking alone at night was slashed across the neck and stabbed in the stomach.

Jonathan Salayco said he was on the debris-strewn streets of disaster-hit Tacloban when two men he did not know pounced late Tuesday, attacking him with a knife before disappearing without a trace.

"He was still holding his toy car," said Mina Joset, a Red Cross nurse at Tacloban hospital where Salayco was brought in on Wednesday morning.

Residents of Leyte's ruined provincial capital -- where bodies still line roads -- are living in fear after looters ran wild in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms ever recorded, on Friday.

The category five storm killed hundreds or possibly thousands in Tacloban, flattening buildings and cutting off power, water, electricity and communications. Authorities there are struggling to deliver much-needed food and medical supplies to an increasingly desperate population.

Salayco had a slit throat and stab wound in his stomach, according to Joset, but due to a lack of medical supplies at the overwhelmed hospital doctors could only temporarily dress his wounds.

"For a boy like him, this is a serious injury," the nurse said.

Fortunately for Salayco, officials were able to get him on a military helicopter which took him to a hospital on another island for further treatment.

Famished and destitute survivors desperately searched for food following the storm, some resorting to looting. Others took advantage of the post-disaster chaos to steal not only food and water but also consumer items from televisions to toys.

To restore law and order, the government has sent almost 2,000 police, soldiers and special forces to patrol and man checkpoints on Leyte island. A night-time curfew is also in force.

On Wednesday gunshots forced the postponement of a mass burial of typhoon victims, the mayor of Tacloban told AFP.

Local doctor Corazon Rubio survived last week's typhoon that killed 10 of her neighbours but she said it the aftermath that left her terrified.

"What is frightening is the looting," Rubio told AFP.

"They would get TV sets from the houses. Of what use are they? We don't even have electricity," she asked despairingly.

Terrified shop owners have fled, fearing that their families would be targeted.

"The businesses of Tacloban are all leaving... because of safety issues," Alfred Li, head of the local chamber of commerce, said.

He told how organised gangs had broken into warehouses, taking the most expensive items, while individual looters help themselves to the rest.

Presidential spokesman Ramon Carandang has sought to play down security fears.

"There have been so many reports of looting and rape which have turned out not to be correct," he told ABS-CBN television.

Manila police officer Julian Bagawayan said 150 members of his riot police squad were in Tacloban, conducting curfew foot patrols which started on Monday night.

"We are here to stop people looting properties and breaking into homes," he said.

"If we see people loitering after dark, we will advise them to go indoors. If they refuse, there are laws applicable to them."

People who clung to power cables or cowered in concrete buildings as an apocalyptic storm blew through the Philippines may have thought they were lucky to live, but for many, the struggle to survive has only just begun.

Those who made it through the terrifying winds, which hurled cars and parts of buildings around as they brought a surge of seawater ashore, each have a story to tell about the day Super Typhoon Haiyan struck.

But all now face the slow-motion disaster of life in a lawless wasteland, where food and water are scarce, medicine is in short supply and gunfire rings out.

On a road behind Tacloban airport, Nelson Matobato, 34, and his wife Karen, 29, sat at night in a pedicab beside an improvised plywood coffin holding the bodies of their two daughters, aged seven and five.

Their two sons, one aged four and the another only three months old, are still missing.

"The water came at 7:00 am and our house was submerged instantly," Nelson Matobato said, as a can of floor wax, used as an improvised candle, burned nearby.

"By 9:00 am we were already on the rooftop. Then all of us were swept away as the house disintegrated. We could not do anything."

His neighbour Dennis Daray also sat by the road, with the body of his sister wrapped in a white sack, one of thousands of people feared to have died in one of the most powerful storms ever recorded.

Daray said he was waiting for authorities to start retrieving bodies.

"It needs to be collected by the authorities. It's starting to smell," he said.

Angeline Conchas and her seven-year-old daughter were trapped on the second floor of their building as flood waters rose around them.

They made their way to safety by clinging on to an electricity cable to get them to a higher building where they sat the flood out.

"It is a good thing the electricity had already been cut off or we would have died," Conchas said.

The World Health Organization said a number of the survivors have significant injuries that need attention. Medics say wounds left untreated in the heat and humidity can quickly become infected, leading to severe illnesses or death.

The cramped living conditions of those made homeless by last Friday's disaster provide a breeding ground for contagious diseases, while the lack of clean drinking water could give rise to diarrhoea -- which can quickly prove fatal if left untreated.

But the WHO also cautioned that regular health needs still have to be met, including the 12,000 babies expected to be born this month to the more than 11.3 million people affected.

One of those infants came into the world at a makeshift medical centre at the battered airport.

Bea Joy's first look at life was one of dirty plywood resting amid broken glass, twisted metal, nails and other debris. Her exhausted 21-year-old mother cradled her, a miracle that she never thought she would see when the ocean swept her wooden home away.

But with no more antibiotics available, doctors worry that infection could yet bring a tragic end to this small story of hope.

Local doctor Corazon Rubio survived last week's typhoon, which killed 10 of her neighbours, but she said it was the aftermath that left her terrified.

"What is frightening is the looting," Rubio told AFP.

"They would get TV sets from the houses. Of what use are they? We don't even have electricity," she said.

Psychiatrists say some of those pillaging are doing so because of the hopelessness and desperation they feel having lost almost everything.

Others may be doing it from economic necessity. The International Labour Organization estimates that three million people have lost their livelihoods. It says nearly half of these are vulnerable workers -- subsistence farmers or fishermen.

Tourism, a mainstay of the Philippine economy, will also have been hit by the latest tragedy in a country prone to natural disaster.

But for many, worries about jobs are something for another day. More immediate fears have taken precedence.

Cecilia Beltran, a 47-year-old mother of three, was queuing outside city hall in Tacloban for a power socket to charge her mobile phone as she told of her family's hourly struggle to subsist.

"It's difficult. We beg for food from neighbours because relief aid has not arrived. We only eat once a day," she told AFP. "Our house is gone. We now live in a tent on the street.

"We scavenged pots from the debris and washed them. We just picked up our clothes from the street and then laundered them. We have nothing left."

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