Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Philippine forensic workers begin identifying typhoon victims (with video)

The heartbreaking task of identifying the victims of Typhoon Haiyan begins.

More than 100 body bags line this city hall in Tacloban in the central Philippines, which bore the brunt of Friday's super typhoon.

These forensic investigators say they need fingerprints, dental records and DNA.

"We will try our best to maximize the DVI (Disaster Victim Identification) but we know that the task could be overwhelming because of the sheer number. And we are running out of time," said Emanuel Aranas, deputy director for operations at Philippine National Police Crime Lab.

Decomposing flesh may make fingerprint identification more difficult and many dental records have been lost in the devastation.

All the bodies that have not been identified will be buried in mass graves.

The Philippines has been overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster and 10,000 are estimated to have died in Tacloban alone.

Tuesday 12 November 2013


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Why typhoon Haiyan caused so much damage

The deadly typhoon that swept through the Philippines was one of the strongest ever recorded. But storms nearly this powerful are actually common in the eastern Pacific. Typhoon Haiyan's devastation can be chalked up to a series of bad coincidences.

Typhoons — known in our part of the world as hurricanes — gain their strength by drawing heat out of the ocean. Tropical oceans are especially warm, which is why the biggest storms, Category 4 and Category 5, emerge there. These storms also intensify when there's cool air over that hot ocean.

"The Pacific at this time of year is very ripe and juicy for big typhoons," says Kerry Emanuel, a climate scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Once or twice a year we get a Category 5 typhoon out there."

"But it's a great rarity, fortunately, that a storm just happens to reach peak intensity when it's making landfall. And that's what happened in this case."

As it approached one large island in the Philippines, the storm pushed up into a broad bay. That created a 13-foot storm surge that caused widespread devastation at the head of that bay, in the city of Tacloban. Typhoon Haiyan struck the Leyte Gulf, in the Philippines, nearly dead-on, creating a 13-foot storm surge that funneled water into Tacloban city.

Typhoon Haiyan struck the Leyte Gulf, in the Philippines, nearly dead-on, creating a 13-foot storm surge that funneled water into Tacloban city.

Mountains also wring rainwater out of storms like these. And then there's the wind.

"So we had a triple whammy, of surge, very high winds and strong rainfall," Emanuel says.

Super Typhoon Haiyan could be the strongest on record, but scientists can't say for sure because they don't have direct measurements of the wind speed. Hurricane scientists usually fly into storms heading toward the United States to measure wind speed and barometric pressure. And the U.S. Navy used to do that for storms in the western Pacific. But Emanuel says budget cuts ended that practice decades ago.

"Since then, we've had to rely on satellites, mostly, to estimate typhoon intensity," he says. "And satellites are very good at detecting the presence of typhoons but they're not so great when it comes to estimating how strong they are."

Scientists at the U.S. Navy/Air Force's Joint Typhoon Warning Center infer that Haiyan produced sustained wind speeds of around 190 or 195 mph at its peak. John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas state climatologist at Texas A&M University, says gusts blew up to 230 mph, which is as fast as a speeding race car.

YouTube "Imagine instead of having just one car, imagine millions of raindrops and debris moving at the same speed past you, and you're trying to stand in the middle of it," Nielsen-Gammon says. "That's the kind of force such a hurricane can generate."

The strongest hurricane or typhoon winds on record were from Camille, which struck the U.S. Gulf Coast in 1969. But its 190 mph winds don't tell the whole story. The diameter of the storm matters as well.

"Camille was a very small storm, maybe about one-fifth the size of Haiyan," he says. "So it caused a lot of devastation but over a relatively limited area."

To find out whether Haiyan had record-breaking winds, scientists may turn to amateurs for information.

"Any major storm will attract storm chasers, and Haiyan was no different," Nielsen-Gammon says. "So there were people who traveled to Tacloban specifically to get footage of the storm, and they took along some instruments. So we'll probably get some data out of that."

Of course, that number is only one way to measure the overall severity of a typhoon. The mounting death toll will be another.

And climate scientists like Nielsen-Gammon and Emanuel say that as the planet continues to heat up, so will the oceans. And that means there will be more energy available for storms — and likely more Class 4 and 5 typhoons.

Tuesday 12 November 2013


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Typhoon Haiyan: Removing dead bodies 'not a priority'

The World Health Organisation has said that the bodies of victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines do not pose a public health risk.

WHO said that removing the dead was important after a natural disaster, especially for the psychological recovery of survivors, but that spending vital time and resources on removing and disinfecting the dead should not be a priority yet.

Haiyan was reckoned to be the worst storm in recorded history, with an estimated 10,000 people dead and the toll expected to grow as more victims are discovered. Large parts of the country have been devastated and relief efforts were hampered by wrecked or blocked roads and bridges.

WHO said it is working with the Department of Health in the Philippines to organise aid for survivors.

Getting aid to survivors was the main priority, said WHO. Julie Hall, Philippines representative, said: "We are working closely with the Philippine government and local authorities to assess and rapidly address the life-saving needs of the people affected by this typhoon.

"WHO has an assessment team on the ground in Bohol, and we are sending teams to Cebu and Tacloban with the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination teams in support of national response efforts. WHO is flying in more than two dozen health emergency relief experts and emergency health kits for the initial response."

Medical supplies to cover the basic health needs of 120,000 people for a month have been shipped in and there are enough equipment and medicines to perform 400 surgeries, she said. Supplies to treat 3,000 cases of acute diarrhoea have also been sent.

WHO has re-emphasised the findings from a report it produced in 2006 - that relief efforts should be focused first on helping the living rather than the dead.

"Governments are frequently overwhelmed by large numbers of dead and may order mass burials in the interests of protecting public health," the report said. "Initial media focus is often on the dead and graphic images of dead bodies among the debris creates pressure on governments to 'do something'.

"There is a widespread and erroneous belief, even among some health professionals, that dead bodies are a source of disease and therefore a threat to public health. This is untrue. There has never been a documented case of an epidemic occurring after a natural disaster that could be traced to exposure to dead bodies."

WHO said misconceptions about corpses often led to the "unnecessary diversion of staff and resources at a critical time".

"Pressure from misinformed journalists and media organisations can cause governments to behave inappropriately, for example, spraying the area around dead bodies with disinfectant or covering dead bodies with lime. These operations are costly, time-consuming, require complicated logistics and coordination, take staff away from caring for survivors and are totally unnecessary.

"Care of the dead and missing is an important area of work after a disaster and is clearly a major social responsibility of government. It is very important for the psychological recovery of survivors to have their dead relatives returned to them for culturally appropriate rites and disposal.

"A well-organised system for the retrieval, storage, identification and disposal of the dead is an essential part of a national disaster management structure, but like other parts of that structure, it must be properly planned and resourced."

Tuesday 12 November 2013


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Single morgue copes with Karachi's death toll

As Ghulam Hussain prepares for another day at work as manager of the Edhi Morgue, the only functioning morgue in Karachi -- a city of more than 18 million and the explosive nerve center of Pakistan -- on the other side of town a large bundle wrapped in a white shroud is loaded by two men into an ambulance.

The red-stained shroud does a poor job of hiding the bloodied corpse inside.

On arrival at the morgue, the bundle is gingerly carried inside. On a good day, this would be the first of five bodies Hussain receives.

"Sometimes, there are as many as 10 bodies in a day and other times even more," he told UPI Next.

As the police officer rattles off details about the corpse -- where it was picked up, the clothes it was wearing, bullet wounds, any identifying features -- Hussain jots them down in the register in front of him.

He writes the number 138,289 on a piece of paper and pulls it under the string holding the shroud in place. The body is then sent to cold storage, where other wrapped corpses lie side by side on steel bunks.

"If we wash the body at once it changes the way they look and families have a hard time recognizing their loved ones," explains Hussain.

The port city of Karachi accounts for about 40 percent of the country's gross domestic product, 73 percent of its income tax and 64 percent of sales tax revenues.

Hardly a day goes by when someone is not robbed or killed, or a trussed-up body is not found by the side of the road. City newspapers carry stories of such violence daily.

Through June of this year, 1,726 killings were recorded by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. About eight people have died each day this year, on average.

Last year -- the deadliest in two decades, with 2,000 fatalities, according to the commission -- it took nine months to reach 1,800 bodies. Of the total killed this year, more than half were killed by robbers or bomb blasts.

The morgue has certainly been busier this year, Hussain said.

In March, a deadly bomb attack ripped through the city's Abbas Town area, killing 48 people.

"Even the morgue's floor was covered with charred bodies," another morgue worker, Mohammad Siddique, recalled. Siddique bathes bodies before they are sent for burial.

Hussain says of every five victims of violence, two are claimed by their families, while the rest are buried in the Edhi graveyard. The morgue charges about $10 for keeping a body in its cold storage, $6 for pre-burial bathing and $23 for an austere wooden coffin.

The fee is hardly enough to cover the cost of the electricity bill, which amounts to about $4,700 a month. Maintenance of air conditioners alone costs up to $187 per month.

The morgue was set up in 1984 by the Edhi Foundation, Pakistan's largest charity organization, after founder Abdul Sattar Edhi saw the need for somewhere unclaimed dead could be buried with customary religious honor.

The foundation was provided with 10 acres of land in Mawach Goth, an area on the outskirts of the city by Mayor Abdul Sattar Aghani, burial site administrator Anwar Kazmi told UPI Next.

The land soon filled up and the government gave the foundation 20 more acres.

Now, at least six unclaimed bodies are buried there each day.

In the first six months of the year, the foundation buried 828 unclaimed bodies. Last year, it buried more than 1,500; the previous year, more than 1,700.

"Since 1985 we have buried at least 217,000 bodies here," Kazmi said.

Two government hospitals in Karachi also have cold storage facilities, but they are seldom used, the city's chief medical examiner, Jalil Qadir, said.

"Often when bodies, including those of high-profile criminals, are kept in the hospital morgues, their relatives often come and wreck the facilities and injure doctors on duty. This is perhaps why the hospital authorities are not interested in keeping their morgues functional," the chief of forensics at Karachi's Sindh Jinnah Medical University, Dr. Muhammad Ali Mondhra, told UPI Next.

Meanwhile, corpse No. 138,289 lies on the cold steel bunk in the morgue. No. 138,281 lies beside it.

People come and go. Some have brought their late loved ones in for final burial rites. Others come searching for their loved ones.

Though Hussain's job is to guard the dead, he said it gives him a deeper appreciation of life and its fluidity.

"Once we received the body of a girl who had been raped. Her body had been found lying on the street. But her father refused to own his daughter and take her body home because he was angry at his daughter for running away," Hussain said.

"I kept the body for 11 days thinking that the father would change his mind and come back to claim it. But when it started to turn blue and decompose I had to send it for burial."

Meanwhile, two men arrive at the morgue. The younger man is looking for his older brother, missing for the past three days. He is taken inside the cold storage room to see if he can recognize someone. He does.

Corpse No. 138,281 has been identified as the victim of a shooting in the troubled south zone of Karachi.

Three days after arriving at dawn, corpse No. 138,289 is taken out of cold storage with five others. A photo is taken of the face, with the body number placed below.

Night shift workers give him his final ablution. The stained shroud is replaced. He is loaded back into an ambulance and taken to his final resting place in Mawach Goth, in the graveyard for the unknown.

Tuesday 12 November 2013


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BAHID conference programme and registration form now ONLINE

The conference of the British Association for Human Identification (BAHID) will take place on Saturday 30 November & Sunday 1 December at Chancellors Hotel and Conference Centre in Manchester (UK).

We are pleased to announce that the conference programme and registration form for the BAHID conference are now ONLINE. The conference will take place on Saturday 30th November at Chancellors Hotel and Conference Centre in Manchester (UK). The British Association for Forensic Anthropologists (BAFA) will jointly organise a meeting and workshop on Sunday 1st December.

The usual 'welcome reception' will take place on Friday evening 29 November. The theme of the conference will be centred around ‘Preparing for Disasters’ with invited talks from forensic experts and disaster planners. BAFA will hold a meeting and a workshop on Sunday 1 December.

The registration form can be found here: http://www.bahid.org/conference/conference-registration/

The conference programme can be viewed here: http://www.bahid.org/conference/programme/

Details of the conference venue, travel directions and accommodation bookings can be found here: http://www.bahid.org/conference/venue/

Accommodation is still available at the venue. Please note that a limited number of pre-reserved rooms are available so book at your earliest convenience to avoid disappointment. To access the discounted BAHID room booking rates, delegates must quote BAHID and Booking Reference 147800 and reserve with their own debit or credit card. Twin room availability is limited, so booking early is advisable.

Single room - £50/night (incl VAT and full English breakfast)
Double room (single occupancy) - £60/night (incl VAT and FEB)
Twin room (double occupancy) - £75/night per room (incl VAT and FEB)
To book a room, delegates need to telephone Chancellors directly on 0161 306 7578 Monday - Friday between 9.00 am. and 5.00 pm., or 0161 306 7414 (main reception) outside those times.

Please note that the deadline for conference registration is Wednesday 27th November 2013.

If you have any questions, please contact j.bikker@dundee.ac.uk (BAHID Membership Secretary & conference organiser) or info@bahid.org

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DOH rejects mass burial for 'Yolanda' typhoon victims, bodies should be properly documented and identified

The fatalities in last week's onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda should be properly identified and their loved ones notified before their remains are buried in a common grave, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said Monday.

Ona said there is no need to rush the burial of the victims because dead bodies do not pose immediate health risk.

“Those are cadavers and when you die, you are no longer infected. The bacteria dies with you,” he said.

It was estimated that as many as 10,000 people may have died in Tac-loban City alone when Yolanda’s strong winds triggered a storm surge that inundated the city.

A mass burial for Philippines Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) victims, local officials planned one mass grave of between 300 to 500 bodies in one area of Tacloban.

“They can bury the dead in a mass grave only after they have been identified by the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation). It is important for the bereaved families to know where they can find their dead relatives,” he added.

Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said being able to retrieve and give proper burial to the remains of their loved ones would greatly ease the anguish of survivors in the tragedy.

“It is not just about burying the dead. It is tormenting if you do not know whether your loved one is just missing or dead. So it is very important for them to be able to give the last rites for their dead relatives,” Tayag said.

Tayag said the department is set to release guidelines for mass burial to concerned local government units.

The guidelines include setting up of a “collection point” for dead bodies.

“While the dead are being documented and identified, mass grave should be prepared. Authorities in charge should know how many bodies will be placed in a grave,” he added.

More grimly, the airport has been turned into a makeshift morgue for the growing number of bodies, found stacked in churches, snagged on tree branches or underneath rubble. Mass graves have been dug to accommodate the corpses, with police chief Elmer Soria reckoning that most victims either drowned or were crushed to death by crumbling buildings.

Tuesday 12 November 2013


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Typhoon reaches Vietnam; 13 killed, 600K displaced

Tropical Storm Haiyan, which killed thousands as a typhoon in the Philippines, has made landfall in north Vietnam, near the border with China.

It still carried gusts of up to 157km/h (98 mph) as it arrived close to the Ha Long Bay tourist destination.

Nearly 900,000 people have been evacuated from regions at risk. Reports say at least 13 people have been killed and 81 injured.

China issued a typhoon alert for Hainan island and other southern provinces.

Chinese rescuers found two bodies off Hainan on Monday, the state-run Xinhua agency reported. They are believed to be sailors from a cargo vessel missing in the South China Sea since Sunday.

Another five crew members are still unaccounted for.

'Intense rain'

Vietnamese state media said that although at least 13 people had died, the fatalities appeared to have taken place during preparations for the storm, before it made landfall.

One of those killed was a journalist who died in an accident on her way to cover the storm, reports said.

The typhoon has decreased markedly in strength from the Category Five storm that swept through the Philippines in a day, causing mass destruction.

It is now classified as a severe tropical storm.

By 21:00 GMT on Monday, as it heads into China, it will have become a tropical depression.

Rainfall will be the main hazard. A 48-hour accumulation of 100mm to 200mm is expected, with up to 400mm over high ground.

Widespread flooding is a possibility, including in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi.

Oxfam's Vietnam director, Andy Baker, told the BBC: "We've had fairly intense rain across much of northern Vietnam, including here in Hanoi where I'm based, and there are concerns about flooding... there's been something of a storm surge of perhaps 3-4m (13ft) higher than usual."

International Federation of Red Cross representative Francis Markus, who is in Hanoi, told the BBC: "We need to be thankful that this storm system has weakened as it's hit Vietnam.

"But at the same time we also can't be complacent because having travelled over such a wide expanse of sea, it's picked up a huge amount of moisture and so we can expect very heavy rainfall with potential flooding and landslides and other dangers."

A resident of Hanoi, Nguyen Thi Uyen, told AFP he had dashed to the supermarket to stock up.

"There was not much left on the shelves... people are worried, buying food to last them for a few days."

There are reports of rising prices in the capital.

Haiyan makes landfall

Haiyan earlier swept over Vietnam's Con Co island, 30km (18 miles) off the coast of central Quang Tri province.

"All 250 people on the island, including residents and soldiers, were evacuated to underground shelters where there is enough food for several days," the Tuoi Tre newspaper said.

Boats have been ordered back to port along many coastal regions. Several hundred domestic and international flights have been cancelled. Schools have been closed for Monday in many parts of the north.

The authorities have moved 883,000 people in 11 central provinces to safe zones, according to Reuters.

Some people have complained that the warnings have come too late.

In China, Xinhua reported that the National Meteorological Center had issued a red typhoon warning - the highest alert in its four-colour typhoon warning system.

More than 13,000 people were evacuated from the major tourist resort of Sanya on Hainan.

More than 200 flights at Hainan's airports have been cancelled or delayed.

The typhoon passed by the south-western tip of Hainan as it headed for landfall on the Vietnam coast close to the China border, the Hong Kong Observatory's typhoon tracker showed.

Xinhua also said that eight people had died after being swept out to sea in northern Taiwan by waves attributed to Haiyan.

The typhoon killed up to 10,000 people in one area of the Philippines alone, with rescuers as yet unable to reach many other cut-off regions.

It brought sustained winds of 235km/h (147mph), with gusts of 275 km/h (170 mph), with waves as high as 15m (45ft), bringing up to 400mm (15.75 inches) of rain in places.

Deadly typhoons

Sept 1937 Hong Kong typhoon - 11,000 dead

Sept 1959 Typhoon Vera - deadliest to hit Japan, killing 5,238 people

Aug 1975 Typhoon Nina - about 229,000 die in China after collapse of Banqiao dam

Nov 1991 Typhoon Thelma - deadliest in the Philippines to date, killing 5-8,000

Tuesday 12 November 2013


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29 killed in South Africa bus accident

A bus collision in South Africa killed 29 people and severely injured 11 others, on a road notorious for deadly accidents, a government spokesman said.

"The number is now 29," said Mpumalanga province safety department spokesman Joseph Mabuza, updating an earlier tally of 26 dead in yesterday's accident.

The bus collided with a truck near the town Kwaggafontein 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of the capital Pretoria.

Three of the injured had died in hospital, while eight others were still critical and another 12 slightly hurt.

The bus was traveling from Pretoria when it collided with a truck which had swerved out of its lane, said Mabuza.

"The truck driver was trying to avoid a stationary vehicle and collided with the oncoming bus," he told AFP.

"We are not sure if the truck driver and the bus driver survived the accident," he added.

The injured were taken to hospital in nearby KwaMhlangu.

The bus company's name was not immediately available.

Known as the Moloto road for one of the towns along its way, the route is notorious for deadly collisions.

Around 50,000 people commute to work in Pretoria daily along the narrow and potholed route, using 635 buses.

Transport vehicles using the road are often overloaded and unroadworthy while drivers are prone to speeding.

Last month 18 people were injured in a collision on the route, while news reports about deadly accidents are frequent.

Last year religious leaders held a prayer service for the safety of the road. A radio station also dedicated a day to profile its dangers during which a provincial minister committed to improve conditions.

In September 27 people died when a heavy-duty truck crashed into traffic near eastern city Durban, while 24 were killed when a double-decker bus crashed into a mountainous pass near Cape Town in March.

Tuesday 12 November 2013


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Two dead, five missing from cargoship hit by typhoon Haiyan

Two seafarers are dead, and five are missing after Chinese cargo vessel disappeared in typhoon Haiyan when it struck the southern Chinese island of Hainan.

Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that a Guangxi-registered cargo vessel had broken free from its mooring on 9 November in the port of Sanya and vanished at sea after the typhoon struck the port.

Rescuers found two bodies suspected to be seafarers from the missing in the vessel. Search and rescue operations were underway for five seafarers still missing.

The typhoon Haiyan has left more than 10,000 feared dead in the central Philippines, and pictures show vessels driven ashore flattening homes in in Anibong town near Bacolod city which bore the worst of the impact of the super tyhoon when it made landfall.

Tuesday 12 November 2013


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Worst plane crash in RCAF history frozen in time

Seventy years later, it is still the worst accident in the history of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

On Oct. 19, 1943, an Ottawa-bound B-24 bomber crashed into a mountain just north of Montreal, killing 24 military men who were headed for some well-deserved time off.

The wreckage of the B-24 Liberator that crashed during a snowstorm still rests near the summit of Black Mountain, outside of St. Donat.

After the plane disappeared during the flight from Gander, Newfoundland, the RCAF sent more than 700 search flights to locate the wreckage.

Friends and family of those on board waited for news of survivors, but as time passed and the plane was not found, hope began to fade.

The RCAF eventually had to call off the search.

Nearly three years later, a pilot noticed a flicker of light coming from a forest, far north of where the original search had taken place, and the wreckage was discovered on the remote mountain top.

For families of the deceased, the agony of never knowing what happened had finally ended and personal belongings recovered from the crash site were sent back to grieving next of kin.

As Canadians mark Remembrance Day, the family of one of the deceased airmen, Corporal Ronald Douglas Marr, is recalling their own tragic story of loss.

“To think family didn’t know anything for 32 months about where the crash was, where his remains were… that’s a long time,” said Karen Valley, Marr’s grandniece.

It took several days for officials to make the trek to the crash site. Some family members, including Marr’s father, travelled there to hold a funeral and bury the remains of the men on the mountain.

Marr’s nephew, Graham Ingram, said although officials debated sending bodies back to families, there was no way to individually identify the remains because the wreckage was so badly burned.

“These are people who lived together, who worked together… for eternity, let them be together. I think it was a good decision,” Ingram said.

Marr was a wireless operator and armourer with the RCAF and his family still has precious personal items of his, including a helmet, photos and letters that depict some of the horrors of war.

“We’ve had a very busy three weeks, mom. The squadron is credited with nine kills on submarines and we alone made two attacks with one confirmed kill. It was pretty grim. Ships all over the ocean basically and all over the Atlantic, but one night alone we saw five ships on fire. Sickening is no word for this sight,” Marr wrote to his mother.

The family has also kept letters from the RCAF and one from King George Vl.

On this Remembrance Day, sharing their story is a way for Marr’s family to honour his sacrifice and the contributions of others who defended the freedom of all Canadians.

Tuesday 12 November 2013


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Family tracing services activated following deadly typhoon

The American Red Cross is providing support to the Philippine Red Cross for its response to Typhoon Haiyan, which caused significant damage and a rising death toll.At this time the American Red Cross can accept tracing inquiries for missing loved ones in relation to Typhoon Haiyan.

Inquiries that will be accepted that meet the following criteria:

** Sought persons living in the affected area who were in regular contact with their relatives in the United States before the event occurred.

** For family members who are not U.S. citizens.

Inquiries concerning U.S. citizens should be referred to the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services, at 1-888-407-4747.

Those concerned about a missing family member in the Philippines should remember that many phones lines are down. As a result they should continue trying to reach their loved one. If, after several attempts, persons cannot be reached, contact the local chapter of the American Red Cross to initiate a tracing case.

People who want to donate to the American Red Cross to support the response for this typhoon can go to redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS. 

The Northeast Ohio Region of the American Red Cross is comprised of 13 community chapters. Together, the organization serves 22 counties and their 4.5 million residents by preventing, preparing for and responding to emergencies 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

With the vast scale of death and destruction slowly coming into focus, international relief teams rushed toward the central Philippines, where one of the strongest storms on record left bereft survivors looting food and water or scrambling for a way out.

Aid agencies said they were hurrying supplies to the area hit early Friday by the typhoon. U.S. Marines were en route from bases in Okinawa, Japan, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel directed the Pacific Command to deploy helicopters, logistics officers and cargo planes to assist the effort.

Initial reports suggested that the Philippines had escaped widespread loss of life from fast-moving Typhoon Haiyan, called Yolanda by Filipinos. But as reports trickled in Sunday from areas that had been cut off from the rest of the country, it became increasingly clear that the country had suffered a major natural disaster.

The storm weakened over the South China Sea after leaving the Philippines.

In the Philippines, police superintendent Elmer Soria told reporters that officials on the island of Leyte had estimated 10,000 deaths. The U.S. Agency for International Development said that in some parts of the central Philippines, 90 percent of the housing had been destroyed.

“There was death everywhere,” said Danny Larsen, a 35-year-old Dane, who arrived Sunday at a military airbase in Manila from Leyte’s main city, Tacloban.

With few if any cars around and no gas available, Larsen said he walked about 10 miles to the airport from a village where he had ridden out the typhoon in a basement. The road was like “death row,” he said. Multi-story buildings had been reduced to heaps of broken concrete rubble, and bodies were strewn about.

“There were people — babies, children, old people — lying out on the street, with blisters over their bodies ... hundreds of them,” said Larsen.

Television footage showed wooden houses in splinters, cars floating on their sides through floodwaters, upended trees and telephone polls and houses with their roofs blown off.

Many of the most desperate remained trapped in remote, mud-choked coastal towns without power, transportation or telephones.

In Tacloban, a city of 220,000, officials said that more than 100 bodies had been found on the airport grounds alone. The homeless and injured crowded around the airport hoping to escape, or at least to find food or fresh water.

Larsen, who had moved to Tacloban two weeks earlier with his girlfriend, said he had waited eight hours with about 1,000 people to get on a cargo plane back to Manila. Their main concern was not the typhoon damage but the lawlessness.

“Everything is being looted. ... There is no law enforcement — it’s a free-for-all,” he said. “Hotels, everything, cash registers, even McDonald’s. ... It is World War III.”

As reports trickled in from more far-flung areas, there were more tales of death and destruction.

“We just made a mass grave for 57 people,” Mayor Edgar Boco from the small coastal town of Hernani told reporters.

While survivors tried to escape, dozens of others in Manila were hoping to catch a ride on a transport plane from Manila’s Villamor Air Base to the scene of the disaster in hopes of finding out what happened to loved ones.

Philippines President Benigno Aquino III toured the area by helicopter Sunday, landing in Tacloban. Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said the storm destroyed everything in its path.

“From a helicopter, you can see the extent of devastation. From the shore and moving a kilometer inland, there are no structures standing,” Reuters news agency quoted him as saying. “I don’t know how to describe what I saw. It’s horrific.”

An initial USAID survey said the cities of Tacloban and Ormoc were “wiped out,” Jeremy Konyndyk, the agency’s director of foreign disaster assistance, said in a statement.

UNICEF said it was sending supplies for 3,000 families from stocks already in the Philippines, and that its warehouse in Copenhagen was airlifting $1.3 million worth of water purification tablets, soap, medical kits, tarpaulins and nutritional supplements for an additional 10,000 families. The World Food Program said it was preparing to send 40 metric tons of high-energy biscuits from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Mammoth Medical Missions, a nonprofit based in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., that provides health services to underserved communities, said a 16-member team had arrived in Tacloban after being diverted from a mission in Chiapas, Mexico.

As part of their mutual defense treaty, the U.S. and Philippines conduct multiple training exercises to prepare for scenarios including disaster response.

The U.S. Navy was flying two P-3 Orion surveillance planes above the islands to help rescuers locate the most severely damaged areas and find survivors.

On Sunday, about 80 Marines from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade stationed in Okinawa boarded two KC-130 cargo planes bound for the Philippines, Col. Brad Bartelt, a Marine Corps spokesman, said in a statement. They brought supplies and communications equipment.

The Marine Corps will also be sending MV-22 Osprey aircraft. The Osprey is shaped like a cargo plane, but can rotate its propellers vertically like a helicopter to land and take off without a long runway.

In a statement released Sunday, President Barack Obama said that he and first lady Michelle “are deeply saddened by the loss of life and extensive damage done by Super Typhoon Yolanda.”

“I know the incredible resiliency of the Philippine people, and I am confident that the spirit of Bayanihan will see you though this tragedy,” Obama said, adopting a term commonly used in the Philippines that means communal cooperation.

Tuesday 12 November 2013


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