The Two-Way
8:39 am
Wed November 13, 2013

In Shattered Philippine City, A Fight For 'Sheer Survival'

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 7:44 pm

(We updated this post at 10:40 a.m. ET to include the latest official death toll of more than 2,300.)

As some trucks loaded with food and other aid arrive in the Philippine city of Tacloban, they're being looted by residents struggling to survive in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, NPR's Anthony Kuhn said Wednesday on Morning Edition.

He's spoken with many of those people, and they seem to be "ordinary folks who would not do such things in ordinary times," Anthony told host Steve Inskeep. "But they are doing such things to stay alive."

In Tacloban, he added, a fight for "sheer survival" is under way as people in the city of more than 220,000 search for food, water and other essentials. As of Wednesday, there weren't enough government troops in the area to control things.

Anthony's report from the scene underscores this headline from The New York Times: "Mayor of Typhoon-Ravaged City Urges Residents to Flee." Here's how the Times starts its story:

"TACLOBAN, the Philippines — The mayor of this typhoon-ravaged city urged residents on Wednesday afternoon to flee to other cities and find shelter there with relatives if they could, saying that the local authorities were struggling to provide enough food and water and faced difficulties in maintaining law and order."

Euro News has posted some video of looting at a store in Tacloban and writes that "desperation, thirst, hunger and opportunism are said to be provoking anarchy.

It was last Friday when Haiyan, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, made landfall. It was packing winds that sometimes reached or exceeded 200 mph. As of late Wednesday morning in the U.S., the official death toll from the Philippine government stood at more than 2,300 (President Benigno Aquino III has said the final toll is likely to be between 2,000 and 2,500). More than 660,000 are thought to have been forced from their homes. As many as 9.8 million people, U.N. officials say, were affected by the storm.

While the government, international aid groups and foreign militaries that have rushed to the affected area are having trouble getting to the victims because of blocked roads, the U.S. commander on the scene told NPR early Wednesday that American assistance has quickly ramped up.

Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy said that "this disaster is five days old for the people of the Philippines, [but] we've effectively only had U.S. military operations for the last 72 hours. And in 72 hours, we've gone from essentially a cold start — I flew in here with six people and a suitcase staff — to running ... aircraft. We moved 65 tons of humanitarian assistance supplies yesterday. That's a lot of stuff. We'll do the same today."

NPR's coverage of the typhoon is collected here. For another view of how desperate things are in some places, see our post from Tuesday:

After Typhoon Tore Through, People 'Were Left On Their Own'

Update at 8:40 p.m. ET. Aid 'Piling Up' In The Capital:

NPR's Jason Beaubien, reporting from Manila, says "despite the massive international effort, aid has still not reached people in the devastated central section of the Philippines."

"Food, water and tarps are piling up at distribution centers here in the capital," he says.

Update at 6:25 p.m. ET. Marines: Tacloban City Airfield '24/7 Capable':

Brig Gen. Paul Kennedy, the on-site commander of U.S. military relief operations in the Philippines, says the airfield at hard-hit Tacloban City is now "24/7 capable."

A statement from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, says:

"The U.S. military has conducted approximately 40 flights in support of Operation DAMAYAN ('Help in Time of Need' in Tagalog), inserting more than 400 relief workers from USAID, its Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), and nongovernment organizations. The joint relief efforts have also airlifted more than 800 displaced people.

Over the next 24 hours, 3d MEB is preparing to receive approximately 180,000 pounds of USAID relief supplies, including plastic sheeting, hygiene kits, food and water, which will be distributed to areas in need."

Gen. Kennedy tells NPR that the Marines have been using C-130s to get supplies into Tacloban, but roads are still blocked from the airport to outlying areas that need help.

"The bridges thankfully are still intact," he says. "Once those roads are cleared, we'll be able to start moving out of the airport."

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