Assessing the damage
The typhoon affected some 11 million people – one in 10 Filipinos – and displaced an estimated 673,000. There are still 29 municipalities yet to be contacted, President Benigno Aquino said Tuesday, but the death toll is likely to be between 2,000 and 2,500 – significantly lower than the dramatic estimate of 10,000 pronounced after the storm tore through the island nation. “There was emotional drama involved with that particular estimate,” he told CNN.
In addition to the Philippine air force, a number of countries are mobilizing naval and air assets. Britain is sending the naval destroyer HMS Daring, carrying equipment to convert seawater into potable water, as well as an RAF C-17 to transport humanitarian aid and equipment. The United States has dispatched the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, with a crew of 5,000 and more than 80 aircraft, and at least five other military cruisers and ships. A U.S. Marine Corps forward command group arrived Sunday, and the Marines have set up staging areas at Villamor Air Base in Manila and the former Clark Air Base in Angeles City.
Aid in a box
Several charities are distributing boxes of aid. Oxfam, for instance, is providing kits for families that consist of a water bucket, a jerry can, some basins, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, sanitary napkins, a tarp, a mosquito net, pots, pans, utensils and condoms. The British charity ShelterBox is distributing plastic boxes containing extreme-weather tents, personal water purification equipment, blankets, mosquito nets, basic tools like hammers and cooking implements. The UN refugee agency and other groups are sending high-energy biscuits as well as hygiene kits containing basic items such as plastic sheeting, blankets, solar-powered lanterns, soap and underwear.
Even the evacuated
The Philippine government evacuated 900,000 people as the typhoon bore down on the centre of the country. In many cases, people who lived in wood shacks that were unlikely to withstand the winds were given shelter in concrete buildings like schools. But the buildings were swamped in the water surge, and large numbers of them collapsed, crushing those who had taken refuge inside. Those who survived have had to be evacuated twice.
Women and girls are especially vulnerable
The aid agency CARE says it is especially concerned about the plight of girls and women affected by the typhoon. To start with, far fewer girls than boys in the Philippines are taught to swim. There are accounts of mothers saying they had to let go of their daughters as the water rolled through. Then there is the aftermath of living in a place with no sanitary supplies and where the sudden disappearance of the electrical grid, and the chaos that tends to follow traumatic events, leaves women vulnerable to attack.
Sources: Stars and Stripes, the Royal Navy, BBC News, UNHCR, Associated Press