“Residents have gone straight to work, clearing the roads and rebuilding their wooden homes”
We went to the northern area of Cebu Island yesterday, in the city of Medellin, which was hit hard by the typhoon. Few died there, the damage is mostly physical. Roughly 90% of the buildings there were destroyed. There is no more electricity, and food and water is scarce.We left with some young people from our community. There were about twenty of us. We brought food, water, and medicine that had initially been earmarked for the survivors of last month’s earthquake. When we got to Medellin, the local authorities sent us to two of the poorest neighbourhoods. We went from house to house to distribute goods.I was very impressed by the attitude of the residents. They’re keeping their spirits up. They went straight to work, clearing the roads and rebuilding their wooden homes. At this point in time, they can only really count on themselves.On Sunday morning, we were the first on the scene to provide aid. Then we saw others come with trucks, with more food than we had. When we left, we went back to city hall, where aid logistics were being worked out. Aid supplies were being gathered there and then distributed. I think they came mainly from companies and individuals. Apart from the government’s water trucks that came to distribute water, we didn’t see much distribution on behalf of the government.
“The NPA militias are blocking the bridge to ransom aid trucks”
This morning, I was able to contact some of the families we’ve been helping in Tacloban, on Leyte Island. After the typhoon, one of the families left on foot to take refuge further south. They told me that they marched like zombies through an apocalyptic landscape: corpses, stores looted by starving people, fights breaking out over scarce food supplies.Aerial view of Tacloban.Some emergency centres are poorly organised and have been completely overwhelmed. In the Philippines, typhoons are very frequent, but nobody expected this one to be so strong.Three days after the catastrophe, aid has started to trickle in. The large Filipino news networks have launched appeals for help that seem to be paying off. But the main problem now is that of access. There are large swathes of Leyte and Samar islands that are completely inaccessible.The Tacloban airport was destroyed, to the point that food aid must be trucked in over the bridge that links Luçon [Editor’s note: this island on which Manila is situated] to Samar. But according to the media, the NPA (New People’s Army) militias have blocked the bridge in order to ransom food trucks [Editor’s note: the NPA communist rebels frequently carry out violent attacks. On October 23 of this year, they carried out an ambush that killed nine Filipino soldiers].There is also a risk that some of the aid will be diverted to other areas. Corruption is endemic in the Philippines. It’s likely that neighbourhood officers or deputies will take part of the funds to redistribute within their districts, in order to whip up more support in time for election season.