Manila : The United States, Australia and the United Nations mobilised emergency aid to the Philippines as the scale of the devastation unleashed by Super Typhoon Haiyan emerged today.
The Pentagon sent Marines and equipment to assist with the relief effort following the typhoon, which may have killed more than 10,000 people in what is feared to be the country’s worst natural disaster. Even Vietnam, despite coping itself with a mass evacuation programme as a weakened Haiyan swung onto its territory, provided emergency aid worth USD 100,000 and said it “stands by the Philippine people in this difficult situation”.
On the ground, the relief operation was centred on the city of Tacloban on Leyte island, three days after one of the biggest storms in recorded history demolished entire communities across the central Philippines and left countless bodies as well as gnawing desperation in its wake.
The Australian government pledged 10 million Australian dollars (USD 9.38 million), with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop describing the unfolding tragedy as “absolutely devastating” and on a “massive scale”.
The sum includes 4 million Australian dollars towards a UN global appeal and 3 million Australian dollars for Australian non-government organisations. The aid will include tarpaulins, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, water containers and health and hygiene kits. A team of Australian medics will leave on Wednesday via a C17 military transport plane from Darwin to join disaster experts already on the ground, the government said.
Philippine rescue teams were said to be overwhelmed in their efforts to help those whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed after Haiyan ravaged large swathes of the archipelago Friday. Officials were struggling to cope with the scale of death and destruction, with reports of violent looters and scarcity of food, drinking water and shelter.
United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon promised UN humanitarian agencies would “respond rapidly to help people in need”.
The UN children’s fund UNICEF said a cargo plane carrying 60 tonnes of aid including shelters and medicine would arrive in the Philippines tomorrow, to be followed by deliveries of water purification and sanitation equipment.