State of National Calamity sought

100 killed; Leyte, Samar worst-hit

Tacloban City — President Aquino was urged to place the country under a state of national calamity as a result of the massive devastation brought on by  super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), one of the strongest typhoons on record, that killed more than 100 people and displaced four million others in 36 provinces.

Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez appeals for help
Bi-partisan lawmakers led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte crossed party lines and called on the President to provide  all the help to  Leyte and Tacloban City,  an opposition bailiwick and home province of Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.

Romualdez, for his part, said he and his allies would file a resolution seeking a   presidential proclamation to declare a state of national calamity, a move that would help speed up relief and rehabilitation efforts in the devastated areas. “We are deeply devastated by the loss of so many lives in Leyte but we have to move forward,” Romualdez said.

His group included Leyte congressmen Sergio Apostol, Lucy Torres-Gomez, Andres Salvacion Jr and Jose Carlos  Cari  as well as members of the independent minority bloc Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Dato Arroyo, Jose Atienza, Jonathan Dela Cruz, Philip Pichay, Lani Revilla, Aleta Suarez and Toby  Tiangco.

Super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) tore into the eastern islands of Leyte and Samar on Friday, leaving in its wake scores of corpses amid a wide area of devastation. Many of the worst-hit areas remained cut off from communications on Saturday, with power and telephone networks destroyed.

Belmonte said that the presence of Cabinet officials like Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin in the Visayas was proof that the Aquino aqdministration was not politicking.

“They should be helped. No politicking where people’s lives and welfare are concerned,” Belmonted said.

In Tacloban, the capital of Leyte, the city’s airport manager said more than 100 bodies were littered in and around the facility, with at least 100 more people injured. Storm surges more than three metres (10 feet) had pounded the area, the Philippine Red Cross said.

Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez and city hall workers scrambled to retrieve corpses and rescue those who were trapped or stranded in flooded areas.

“It happened so fast, the water rose so quickly,”  one of the survivors told the Manila Standard Today.

“The terminal, the tower, including communication equipment, were destroyed,” Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines deputy chief John Andrews told AFP, as he recounted the airport manager’s assessment.

DAY OF TRAGEDY. Death and destruction was the reality the people of Tacloban City had to face on Saturday, only hours after Super-typhoon Yolanda destroyed crops, uprooted trees, tore off roofs and caused general devastation. The damage stunned foreign aid organizations which scrambled to rush relief to residents. Hundreds of bodies and as many damaged vehicles littered the city with the identified body count reaching at least 100 with hundreds more presumed dead Saturday night. EY ACASIO, DANNY PATA, RONALD REYES and NOEL CELIS and RAUL BANIAS/AFP
Large areas of Tacloban, with a population of about 220,000 people, were flattened, according to an AFP photographer who reached the coastal city aboard a military plane carrying relief supplies.

In scenes reminiscent of tsunami damage, some houses in Tacloban were completely destroyed, with piles of splintered wood lying on concrete slabs, while others had just the stone frames remaining.

Almost all the trees and electric posts were torn down, while cars were overturned.

Some dazed and injured survivors wandered around the carnage asking journalists for water, while others sorted through what was left of their destroyed homes.

Eight bodies had been laid to rest inside the airport’s chapel, which had also been badly damaged.

A journalist for local television network GMA also reported seeing about 20 bodies piled up in a church in Palo, a coastal town about 10 kilometres south of Tacloban.

The initial reports from Tacloban and Palo raised fears of mass casualties, with Yolanda having devastated many other communities across the central Philippines that remained cut off from communications.

“We have reports of collapsed buildings, houses flattened to the ground, storm surges and landslides,” Philippine National Red Cross chief Gwendolyn Pang told AFP, giving an assessment across the whole region.

“But we don’t know really, we can’t say how bad the damage is… hopefully today we can get a better picture as to the effects of the super typhoon.”

Another area of concern was Guiuan, a fishing town of about 40,000 people on Samar that was the first to be hit after Haiyan swept in from the Pacific Ocean. Pang said contact had not yet been made with Guiuan.

She also said relief workers were trying reach Capiz province, about 200 kilometres west of Tacloban, on Panay island where she said most of the region’s infrastructure had been destroyed and many houses “flattened to the ground”.

Fifteen thousand soldiers had been deployed to the disaster zones, military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala told AFP.

“We are flying sorties to bring relief goods, materials and communication equipment,” Zagala said.

He said helicopters were also flying rescuers into priority areas, while infantry units deployed across the affected areas were also proceeding on foot or in military trucks.

Haiyan’s wind strength, which remained close to 300 kilometres an hour throughout Friday, made it the strongest typhoon in the world this year and one of the most intense ever recorded.

It exited into the South China Sea on Saturday and tracked towards Vietnam, where more than 100,000 people had begun evacuating from vulnerable areas, Vietnamese state media reported.

Philippine authorities expressed confidence on Friday that only a few people had been killed, citing two-days of intense preparation efforts led by President Benigno Aquino.

Nearly 800,000 people in danger zones had been moved to evacuation centres, while thousands of boats across the archipelago were ordered to remain secured at ports. Hundreds of flights were also cancelled.

The government expressed alarm on Saturday that the much-hyped preparations may not have been effective as initially thought.

“The president is asking why there were still fatalities,” Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras told reporters.

An average of 20 major storms or typhoons, many of them deadly, batter the Philippines each year as they emerge from the Pacific Ocean.

The Philippines suffered the world’s strongest storm of 2012, when Typhoon Bopha left about 2,000 people dead or missing on the southern island of Mindanao.

Request for assistance such as air assets, landing crafts and communication facilities to aid in the distribution of relief goods and conduct of search and rescue operations in Leyte, as roads are inaccessible, no means of communication and water and light.

An average of 20 major storms or typhoons, many of them deadly, batter the Philippines each year as they emerge from the Pacific Ocean.

The Philippines suffered the world’s strongest storm of 2012, when Typhoon Bopha left about 2,000 people dead or missing on the southern island of Mindanao. With Maricel Cruz

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