7:17 pm - Thursday November 5, 2015

Typhoon relief operations pick up pace in Philippines

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Relief supplies sent for Philippines typhoon victims
Relief supplies sent for Philippines typhoon victims

Relief operations in this typhoon-devastated region of the Philippines picked up pace Wednesday, but still only minimal amounts of water, food and medical supplies were making it to the hardest-hit areas.

Aviation authorities said two more airports in the region had reopened, allowing for more aid flights.

International agencies and militaries were also speeding up operations to get staff, supplies and equipment in place for what will be a major humanitarian mission.

The damaged airport on Tacloban, a coastal city of 220,000 almost completely destroyed by Friday’s typhoon and coastal surge, has become the major hub for relief work.

A doctor at a makeshift clinic here said supplies of antibiotics and anaesthetics arrived Tuesday for the first time.

“Until then, patients had to endure the pain,” said Dr. Victoriano Sambale.

The storm displaced at least 580,000 people across the region, in many cases levelling their homes.

Damaged infrastructure and bad communications links made a conclusive death toll difficult to estimate.

The official toll from a national disaster agency rose to 1, 883 on Tuesday. President Benigno Aquino III told CNN in a televised interview that the toll could be closer to 2,000 or 2,500, lower than an earlier estimate from two officials on the ground who said they feared as many as 10,000 might be dead.

“There is a huge amount that we need to do. We have not been able to get into the remote communities,” U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said in Manila, launching an appeal for $301 million to help the more than 11 million people estimated to be affected by the storm.

“Even in Tacloban, because of the debris and the difficulties with logistics and so on, we have not been able to get in the level of supply that we would want to. We are going to do as much as we can to bring in more,” she said. Her office said she planned to visit the city.

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