Typhoon Haiyan devastates Philippines and calls for United States' support



Survivors of the typhoon search for supplies amongst a ship washed ashore in Tacloban City, Leyte, located in the Philippines. Courtesy of thegaurdian.com

Survivors of the typhoon search for supplies amongst a ship washed ashore in Tacloban City, Leyte, located in the Philippines.  Courtesy of thegaurdian.com
Survivors of the typhoon search for supplies amongst a ship washed ashore in Tacloban City, Leyte, located in the Philippines.
Courtesy of thegaurdian.com

Persistent winds reaching 175 mph snapped trees in half and ripped roofs off buildings. Heavy rains and surging seas flattened homes and carried away hundreds of people. Bodies washed up on the sidewalks. As many as 10,000 people may have perished when one of the most powerful storms ever recorded struck the Philippines Friday, November 8.
Comparable to an intense Category 4 hurricane by United States’ standards, super typhoon Haiyan demolished entire towns and villages when it cut through the middle of the Southeast Asian archipelago early Friday, triggering mudslides, flash floods and up to 40-foot waves resembling those of a tsunami.
“The devastation is … I don’t have words for it, it is really horrific,” former Philippine Senator and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said in an article on nbcnews.com. “All systems, all vestiges of modern living, communications, power, water, all are down.”
The province of Leyte was one of the hardest-hit islands. Its capital city of 220,000, Tacloban, was almost completely submerged during the storm, wreaking damage far worse than anticipated.
Convent of the Sacred Heart sophomore Izzy Sio has three aunts, Mrs. Robina Gokongwei-Pe, Mrs. Jing Sy, and Mrs. Belle King, who live in Manila, capital of the Philippines, located northwest of Tacloban City and about 528 miles from the disaster area.
“Tacloban is an agricultural province, so practically all trees, crops and fishing boats were ruined, thus, cutting-off all the sources of living,” said Mr. Mariano Joaquin Jr., Vice-President for Business Development of Robinsons Retail Group, Philippines, who was requested to respond to an email interview in place of President and Chief Operating Officer Mrs. Robina Gokongwei-Pe. “It has become chaotic as people scramble for basic goods like food and water, just to survive. The airport is also badly damaged, so the sending of rescue teams and relief goods did not happen quickly.”
Robinsons Retail Group, the second largest multi-format retailer in the Philippines, is one of many business currently facing a stymied economy, damaged property, and above all, deep concerns for the health and safety of its employees.
“Our head office team recently visited Tacloban to assess the damages incurred by our business and employees there,” Mr. Joaquin Jr. said. “Right now, we are doing everything possible to assist them.”
Communications have proven difficult as emergency crews enter the most devastated areas, most of which still lack electricity and mobile connections. In remote locations, relief can only be brought by boat or helicopter. Some regions remain difficult to assess due to closed roads, power outages, and mounds of wreckage, playing roles in the ambiguity of the death toll.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) of the Philippines has begun to compile a list of the deceased by names and regions, with electrocution, drowning and falling debris deemed the main causes of death.
In a report released November 10, the NDRRMC estimated 9.5 million people were affected by the storm and over 630,000 have been displaced, while thousands across several regions are missing.  As of November 19, the official death toll based on actual bodies retrieved has reached 3,982, but regional police officials speculate the number will reach up to 10,000. Survivors have been described as in desperate need of food and drinking water, as looters raid any still-standing stores and gas stations in search of supplies.
Although she was not personally affected by the storm, Mrs. Sy described the devastation as unbearable in an email interview and said that any form of aid is greatly welcomed.
“Short term, our people need food, water, medicines, clothes, temporary shelter, fuel and power to be restored. Even body bags are needed,” Mrs. Sy said.
The United States Department of Defense released a statement Novemer 9 that said, “Secretary Hagel has directed U.S. Pacific Command to support U.S. government humanitarian relief operations in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.”
The first wave of American forces, a team of 90 marines and sailors, was dispatched to the Philippines November 10 to facilitate search and rescue operations as well as provide air support. According to washingtonpost.com, the Pentagon announced November 11 that aircraft carrier USS George Washington and other U.S. Navy ships have also been ordered to “make best speed” for the Philippines.
The George Washington carrier, which departed from the Sasesbo Naval Base in Japan, transporting 5,000 sailors and over 80 aircraft, arrived in the Leyte Gulf November 14, accompanied by the USS Antietam, USS Cowpens and USS Mustin. All of the amphibious ships offer different assets, including landing decks that can serve helicopters, medical facilities and equipment that can produce desalinated water.
“The president has declared a State of Calamity in order to make sure that relief efforts go unhampered,”  Mrs. Sy said.

As of November 12, the Philippine government reported that 2.5 million people are in need of food provisions, including nearly 300,000 pregnant women or new mothers.

“Once the immediate needs of the victims are addressed, then the national government should focus to re-build the city’s infrastructure to re-start commerce and trade and create jobs,” Mr. Joaquin Jr. said. “Non-government organizations, private corporations and countless private citizens are also mobilizing their resources in order to help. Several other countries were also kind to extend their assistance.”
International aid pledges poured in November 11, including $25 million from the United Nations, $4 million from the European Union, $16 million from Great Britain and $10 million from the United Arab Emirates, but the recovery is predicted to take several months.
“Time is running out. Thus, cooperation, unity and resources are really needed,” Mrs. King said in an email. “One disaster after another has assaulted our country, but the resiliency of our spirit and faith will see us through.”
Sacred Heart held an all-school civvies day Friday, November 15, to recognize the hardships in the Philippines.
“We will continue to pray for the people of the Philippines as they mourn their losses and start to rebuild their lives and their country,” Head of Upper School Mrs. Pamela Juan Hayes said in an email to parents. “Our girls, with their open hearts, want to respond.”
Students were encouraged to make donations and the school raised $9,341 in total. The money will be sent to the Society of the Sacred Heart in the Philippines, where a special fund has been set up for relief aid.
– Jane Gerstner, Editor-in-Chief

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