Supplies running low for survivors of typhoon

 Supplies running low for survivors of typhoon
CHILDREN sit amid the destruction in Dinagat Island, where typhoon Odette made its second of nine landfalls on Dec. 16. — DINAGAT GOV. KAKA BAG-AO

PHILIPPINE officials and residents of areas that bore the brunt of typhoon Rai, locally named Odette, pleaded for food, water, and shelter on Tuesday as damaged roads, flooding, and severed power and communication lines hampered relief efforts.

Rai struck last Thursday, the strongest typhoon to hit the archipelago this year, killing nearly 400 people and affecting 1.8 million, displacing 630,000 of them, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“Our food supply is running low. Maybe, in a few days, we will totally run out,” said Fely Pedrablanca, mayor of Tubajon town on Dinagat Island.

The area, facing the Pacific Ocean, was devastated by the typhoon and she said only nine out of more than 2,000 homes in her town were left standing.

The coast guard has deployed vessels to help in relief work and in trying to reach areas still cut-off, including Dinagat.

In the province of Southern Leyte, evacuation centers were also destroyed, said Roger Mercado, acting chief of the public works agency, as he appealed for tents and construction material.

Damage to infrastructure in Southern Leyte, where residents were also in desperate need of food and water, could reach P3 billion, Mr. Mercado told DZMM radio.

“The damage is very extensive similar to Yolanda,” Mr. Mercado said referring to typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded, which killed 6,300 people in the Philippines in Dec. 2013.

At least 375 people were killed and 56 are missing. More than 500 were injured, police said on Tuesday.

“The government prepositioned food and non-food items but they are not enough because many are in need,” Danilo Atienza, Southern Leyte’s disaster chief, told Reuters.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered state agencies to immediately restore power and communication services.

Mr. Duterte has vowed to raise P10 billion for the rehabilitation and recovery of typhoon-hit areas, his spokesman said on Tuesday.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said a $500-million World Bank disaster response loan can be tapped to help fund rehabilitation efforts as soon as the country announces a state of national calamity.

Quoting Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, he said the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has recommended to the President the declaration of a state of calamity in response to the typhoon, which brought heavy rains and destructive winds over central and southern Philippines.

“World Bank has been put on notice,” Mr. Dominguez said in a Viber message to reporters on Monday.

“(The) amount to be drawn will be determined as soon as the respective agencies provide the figures to the Department of Budget and Management/Department of Finance and approved by the Office of the President.”

FOREIGN ASSISTANCE

Foreign aid has also started to arrive, while the United Nations said it was working with partners to help in the areas of shelter, health, food, protection and other life-saving responses.

The Japanese government said that relief goods are on their way to the Philippines, including generators, camping tents, sleeping pads, portable water containers and plastic sheets that could serve as temporary roofing.

“My heart and prayers go out to everyone in large parts of Visayas and Mindanao hit by Typhoon Odette. My deepest respect to the brave first responders of the ongoing disaster relief and recovery operations in the area. I hope for everyone’s safety,” Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koshikawa Kazuhiko said in a tweet.

Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian said in a Facebook post that relief goods are now being sent to areas devastated by the typhoon. “China will do its utmost to continue its firm support to disaster relief efforts to the Philippine government and the Filipino people.”

China will be distributing 20,000 food packages worth P8 million and 4.72 million kilograms of rice in cooperation with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and local Filipino-Chinese communities.

The United States will also be providing emergency shelter assistance to 3,000 families. Its embassy said in a tweet that 10,000 family food packs are on the way to Butuan City for distribution.

United Kingdom Minister for Asia Amanda Milling said in a tweet that they have committed £750,000 (P49.4 million) to the Philippine Red Cross to support its relief operations.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a tweet that financial assistance will be provided, also through the Philippine Red Cross, to “help address immediate needs on the ground, such as water and sanitation.”

Several local government units across the country that were not affected by the typhoon as well as private groups and corporations have also been mobilizing relief efforts.

Among the Philippine companies that have been delivering assistance include the Aboitiz group, San Miguel Corp., Jollibee Foods Corp., and McDonald’s.

Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III urged the Palace to order a price freeze on basic commodities in worst-hit areas.

“The government should work fast to stop unscrupulous business owners from taking advantage of the calamity and raising the prices of basic commodities amid a shortage in food and water supplies,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. — Reuters, Alyssa Nicole O. Tan, and Jenina P. Ibañez