herald

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Bodies line streets as disease and desperation set in

When two Philippine Air Force C-130s arrived at the typhoon-wrecked airport just after dawn, more than 3,000 people who had camped out hoping to escape the devastation surged on to the tarmac.

Only a few hundred made it aboard; the rest were left in a shattered, rain-lashed city short of food and water and littered with uncounted bodies.

Just a dozen soldiers and several police held the crowd back. Mothers raised their babies high above their heads, in hopes of being prioritised. One woman in her 30s lay on a stretcher, shaking uncontrollably.

"I was pleading with the soldiers. I was kneeling and begging because I have diabetes," said Helen Cordial, whose house was destroyed in the storm. "Do they want me to die in this airport?"

 

FLIGHT

Aristone Balute, an 81-year-old who also didn't get a flight, added: "We need help. Nothing is happening. We haven't eaten since yesterday." Her clothes were soaked from rain, and tears streamed down her face.

The struggle at Tacloban's airport is one of countless scenes of misery in the eastern Philippines since Typhoon Haiyan struck Friday. Only a tiny amount of assistance has arrived and the needs of the nearly 10 million people are growing ever more urgent.

The official death toll from the disaster stands at 1,774 but authorities that to rise markedly and fear estimates of 10,000 dead are nearer to the truth.

As local authorities struggled to deal with the enormity of the disaster, the United Nations said it had had released $25 million in emergency funds and is launching an emergency appeal in Manila today.

Local doctors said they were desperate for medicine.

Beside the ruined airport tower, at a small makeshift clinic, army and air force medics said they had treated around 1,000 people so far.

 

DECOMPOSING

Meanwhile, the dead, decomposing and stinking, litter the streets or remain trapped in the debris.

International aid groups and militaries are rushing assistance to the region but little has arrived.

Truck driver Joselito Caimoy said: "People are just scavenging in the streets. The devastation is too much."

hnews@herald.ie

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