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Philippines: Terrible destruction complicating relief efforts after typhoon

10-11-2013 News Release 13/191

Geneva / Manila (ICRC) – In a matter of hours on 8 November, Typhoon Haiyan – one of the strongest storms ever recorded – completely devastated parts of eastern Visayas in the central Philippines. The International Committee of the Red Cross is closely coordinating its relief efforts with the Philippine Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and a number of National Societies of other countries.

The ICRC has an office and staff on the ground in Tacloban city and will be focusing its emergency response in Samar province, where it has been operational for many years in the context of the armed conflict in the southern Philippines.

“This area has been totally ravaged,” said Sebastien Sujobert, head of the ICRC office in Tacloban. “Many lives were lost, a huge number of people are missing, and basic services such as drinking water and electricity have been cut off.” There was also, he said, extensive damage to other infrastructure, and communication was difficult for those working to aid the stricken population. Both the Philippine Red Cross and the ICRC offices in Tacloban had been damaged, forcing staff to relocate temporarily. “To make matters worse, the security situation is tense. People here need every type of aid.”

On 6 November, with the storm already bearing down on the area, ICRC Manila dispatched 11 trucks to Tacloban loaded with food and other essential relief supplies such as hygiene kits, kitchen utensils, jerrycans, tarpaulins, water bladders and water-treatment units, emergency latrines and medical supplies. However, the trucks were held up for a few days in Surigao city as all sea traffic came to a halt. These supplies have yet to reach Tacloban.

“There’s an urgent need to speed up the humanitarian response,” said Graziella Leite Picollo, deputy head of the ICRC delegation in Manila. The organization was therefore sending additional staff by air from Manila and Davao to support personnel already on the scene. The priority, she said, was to survey the needs, and this would be done together with the Philippine Red Cross.
The trucks are expected in Tacloban tomorrow, Monday. That will enable the distribution of emergency relief to start. The ICRC is determined to reach the affected population as soon as possible.

For further information, please contact:
Soaade Messoudi, ICRC Manila, tel: +63 918 907 2125
Anastasia Isyuk, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 30 23  or  +41 79 251 93 02
David-Pierre Marquet, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 536 92 48 (French)