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December 10 2012 2 10 /12 /December /2012 05:36

Victims beg for food after Philippines typhoon

Families are pleading for food by Philippines' roadsides after a typhoon brought death and destruction to the south - but let the north off with heavy rain.


The quake-hit island of Mindanao is still recovering from the disastrous Typhoon Bopha that swept across Philippines last week. Photo: AFP.


Families are begging for food by Philippines' roadsides after a typhoon brought death and destruction to the south - but let the north off with heavy rain.


Northern areas escaped with heavy rain after typhoon Bopha weakened to a storm on a return journey to the country.


But AFP reports that scenes of hardship were everywhere in southern areas that last week felt the full fury of the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year.


Officials said 548 people are confirmed dead, most of them in the southern island of Mindanao.


Civil defence chief Benito Ramos said the number of missing had shot up to 827 from previous figures of 500 unaccounted for, after reports of more missing fishermen came in.


In the Mindanao mountain town of New Bataan, which took the brunt of the typhoon, families lined the roads holding signs begging for food.

'Have mercy'

"Have mercy on us, please donate," read one sign held by a group of ragged children.


"We need food," read another sign displayed by a group standing amid ruined banana plantations.


Farmer's wife Madeline Blanco, 36, said her family was trying to make do while sheltering in a tent on a basketball court.

"We were given rations but it was not enough. Just rice, bread and noodles. It is not enough for me and my four children," she told the news agency.


"All we can do is wait for donations. There are cars passing by and sometimes drivers give us something," she said.

Another farmer's wife, Emma Toledo, 59, complained that the relief supplies from the national government had yet to arrive.

"We have not been given anything yet. Only the local government and the village officials gave us something, just some rice, noodles and dried fish," said the mother of three.


Drivers of private vehicles also handed out donations but the lack of coordination led to more confusion.


When a truck from a local power company arrived to distribute relief supplies, it was mobbed by hungry villagers and many children were almost trampled in the chaos.


Regional civil defence operations officer Antonio Cloma said many relief agencies, both government and non-government, were entering the area with supplies for typhoon victims.


"The government is doing its best to support the requirements for these victims," he insisted.

Huge challenges

The local head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, David Carden said there was a pressing need for food, shelter and other basic items, but also for generators.


However he conceded that there were "huge logistical challenges" in bringing in the aid.


"Bridges have fallen, roads have been blocked by fallen trees," he said.


Elsewhere, the main church of New Bataan finally reopened after roads leading to it were cleared but only a few of the faithful came to the first mass since the storm as many were too busy attending to their dead and missing.


The storm brought a few downpours in the north, with no reports of floods. The government weather station said it would dissipate by Monday.


Typhoon Bopha had been headed out to the South China Sea when it made a U-turn towards the north this weekend, initially raising fears of another disaster.


In Rome, Pope Benedict said he was praying for "the victims, their families and the many homeless" in Asia's largest Catholic outpost, where 80 per cent are followers of the religion.

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