Typhoon aid effort picks up pace

Typhoon aid effort picks up pace

Soldiers are distributing rice and water in the typhoon-devastated Philippines and chainsaw-wielding teams are cutting debris from blocked roads as the aid effort picks up pace.

Thousands continue to flock to the airport, desperate to leave.

The first C-130 transport planes have arrived Tacloban airport, the first night-time flight since the typhoon struck on Friday, suggesting air control systems are now in place for round-the-clock operations – a prerequisite for the massive relief effort needed.

Food, water and medical supplies from the US, Malaysia and Singapore sat on pallets along the tarmac.

Military officials were among the thousands waiting outside the airport trying to get their families out.

While the cogs of what promises to be a massive international aid effort are beginning to turn, it is still not quick enough for the 600,000 people displaced, many of them homeless, hungry and thirsty, their livelihoods destroyed.

Much of the aid – and the staff needed to distribute it – is stuck in Manila and the nearby airport of Cebu, a 45-minute flight away.

Some among the desperate residents have resorted to raiding for food. Mobs overran a rice warehouse on Leyte, collapsing a wall that killed eight people, while thousands of sacks of the grain were carted off.

But police say the situation is improving on the ground.

The official death toll has risen to 2,357, according a national tally kept by the disaster agency. That figure is expected to rise, perhaps significantly, when accurate information is collected from the whole disaster zone, which spreads over a wide area of the eastern and central Philippines but appears to be concentrated on two main islands – Leyte and Samar.

Philippines energy secretary Jericho Petilla said it could take six weeks before the first typhoon-hit towns get their electric supply back.

Speaking at Cebu airport, Mr Petilla said many transmission lines had been toppled and power plants damaged from Typhoon Haiyan.

He added that in the hard-hit coastal city of Tacloban, order needed to be restored “because if there’s no peace and order, it’s hard to reinstall the power posts”.

He said army troops had fired shots to drive away a group of armed men who approached a power transmission substation in Leyte province. The unidentified men fired back then fled. Nobody was hurt.

The commander of US forces in the Philippines told BBC Radio 5 Live's Up All Night show that support from the States will be on a scale never seen before.

Brigadier General Paul Kennedy said the US is to set up a joint taskforce to tackle the humanitarian crisis.

The US Navy’s aircraft carrier, George Washington, has been sent to the area to bolster search and rescue operations.

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