Hunger, despair grip survivors after typhoon


Posted at Dec 10 2012 10:55 AM | Updated as of Dec 10 2012 06:55 PM

CATEEL, Davao Oriental – Government authorities are scrambling to find the missing and restore dignity to the living in typhoon-hit towns in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

In Cateel, at least 143 people were found dead, with the number expected to rise as information from barangays that were cut off during the typhoon start to arrive.

ABS-CBN correspondent Chiara Zambrano reported no roofs remain intact in Cateel a week after Typhoon Pablo (international codename Bopha) hit the town.

Residents said the typhoon hit the town “like a bomb” and ripped apart roofs, walls and whole buildings.

Electric posts made of concrete litter the streets in Cateel after Pablo’s strong winds “lifted them up and turned them like propellers in mid air.”

Elsewhere, coconut trees were uprooted and broken in half like twigs.

Winds also blew apart the entire second floor of a school building, scattering chairs, books and other material inside.

The town’s largest church, which is usually used as a temporary evacuation center, was also destroyed, its roof blown off and pews inside left in disarray. A school building also collapsed, killing at least 28 evacuees inside.

Authorities said hunger and a sense of desperation are affecting residents, most of whom have lost their homes and source of livelihoods in the typhoon.

Ninety percent of Cateel residents are copra farmers but with all coconut trees destroyed, it will take at least 10 years before new trees can be of use to anyone.  

Officials are still trying to find out how many people remain in Cateel because many residents are packing up their belongings and leaving town.

Families beg for food

In the Mindanao mountain town of New Bataan in Compostela Valley, which took the brunt of the typhoon, families lined the roads holding signs begging for food.

"Have mercy on us, please donate," read one sign held by a group of ragged children.

"We need food," read another sign displayed by a group standing amid ruined banana plantations.

Farmer's wife Madeline Blanco, 36, said her family was trying to make do while sheltering in a tent on a basketball court.

"We were given rations but it was not enough. Just rice, bread and noodles. It is not enough for me and my four children," she told AFP.

"All we can do is wait for donations. There are cars passing by and sometimes drivers give us something," she said.

Another farmer's wife, Emma Toledo, 59, complained that the relief supplies from the national government had yet to arrive.

"We have not been given anything yet. Only the local government and the village officials gave us something, just some rice, noodles and dried fish," said the mother of three.

Drivers of private vehicles also handed out donations but the lack of coordination led to more confusion.

When a truck from a local power company arrived to distribute relief supplies, it was mobbed by hungry villagers and many children were almost trampled in the chaos.

"I've been here for a long time. I am hungry and my children need food," one angry woman yelled as she pushed her way to the front.

Regional civil defense operations officer Antonio Cloma said many relief agencies, both government and non-government, were entering the area with supplies for typhoon victims.

"The government is doing its best to support the requirements for these victims," he insisted.

The local head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, David Carden said there was a pressing need for food, shelter and other basic items, but also for generators.

"People are scared at night and whenever it rains," in the darkness, he said.

However he conceded that there were "huge logistical challenges" in bringing in the aid.

"Bridges have fallen, roads have been blocked by fallen trees," he told AFP.

Death toll now at 647

The death toll from typhoon "Pablo" is now at 647, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said on Monday.

NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos said 430 of the bodies have been identified and turned over to their relatives, while 217 have yet to be claimed by their loved ones.

The figure is expected to rise as 780 remain missing.

Ramos admitted that the odds of finding survivors are now slim since it has been a week since the typhoon occurred.

"Pang-lima o pang-anim na araw na ito, medyo slim ang chance na makakita ng buhay pero hindi tayo nawawalan pa ng pag-asa na meron, may mga survivors," he told dzMM.

Ramos also noted that damaged roads are hampering the transport of relief goods, but the navy and coast guard are delivering goods by ship.

He added that an American C-130 plane is expected to ferry aid to affected areas today as part of the US defense department's commitment to humanitarian efforts. With Agence France-Presse