Tacloban (Philippines) (AFP) – U.S. and British warships were deployed on Tuesday to the typhoon-ravaged Philippines where well over 10,000 people are feared dead and countless survivors are begging for help in rain-soaked wastelands.
Four days after Super Typhoon Haiyan destroyed entire coastal towns in mostly poor central islands with record winds and tsunami-like waves, the magnitude of the disaster continued to build with almost unimaginable horror.
“We are certainly expecting the worst. As we get more and more access we find the tragedy of more and more people killed in this typhoon,” UN humanitarian operations director John Ging said, after Philippine President Benigno Aquino declared a “state of national calamity”.
The United Nations warned 10,000 people were feared dead in just one city, Tacloban, the provincial capital of Leyte province where 16-foot waves flattened nearly everything in their path as they swept hundreds of yards inland.
Nearly 10 million people, or 10 percent of the Philippines’ population, have been affected, while 660,000 have lost their homes, the UN estimated as it launched a flash appeal to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for a relief effort.
Overwhelmed and under-resourced rescue workers have been unable to provide desperately needed food, water, medicines, shelter and other relief supplies to many survivors, and desperation has been building across the disaster zones.
“There is nothing here left for us. Our house is gone, we don’t have any money, we don’t have our documents, passports, school records,” Carol Mampas, 48, told AFP at Tacloban’s destroyed airport as she cradled her feverish baby son in a blanket.
“Please, please, tell authorities to help us. Where is the food, where is the water? Where are the military collecting the dead?”
Bodies still litter the wreckage, while security concerns are building as gangs take advantage of a security vacuum to loot homes and businesses that survived the typhoon.
The government announced a night-time curfew for Tacloban and deployed special forces across the ruined city in a bid to prevent looting.
Heavy rain overnight in Tacloban compounded the survivors’ desperation, while a tropical storm to the south threatened other typhoon-hit islands where hundreds of other people were also killed.
An international relief effort has begun to build momentum, with the United States and Britain announcing they would quickly deploy warships carrying thousands of soldiers to the Philippines.
The Pentagon said the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which has 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft aboard, will head to the United States’ close Asian ally on Tuesday, from Hong Kong where it is currently on a port visit.
Five other warships are also being deployed, and the group is expected to reach the Philippines within two to three days, the Pentagon said. Ninety U.S. marines arrived in Tacloban on Monday as an advance team.
“These ships and aircraft will be able to provide humanitarian assistance, supplies, and medical care in support of the ongoing efforts led by the government and military of the Republic of the Philippines,” the Pentagon said.