UN: Nearly 2 Million Displaced By Typhoon

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More than a week after Typhoon Haiyan decimated parts of the Philippines, many residents there are still awaiting help to secure food and shelter. The official death toll has climbed to more than 3,600. And the United Nations now estimates that the storm left nearly 2 million people homeless.


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.

One week ago, Typhoon Haiyan tore across the Central Philippines. Haiyan was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded. NPR's Jason Beaubien is in one of the cities hardest hit by the super typhoon, Tacloban. He joins me now on the line. Hi, Jason.


RATH: So, Jason, we're seeing some of the new figures on the number of people who were displaced and left homeless by the typhoon. What can you tell us about that?

BEAUBIEN: Yeah. The U.N. has put out new figures. And what's kind of amazing is that just over the course of two days, their estimate of the number of people displaced by this typhoon jumped from 900,000 up to 1.9 million people. Basically, they're getting to new areas. They're starting to reach people. They're getting into the vast swath of the Philippines that was hit by this, and they're starting to see that the number of homes destroyed is actually much greater than was initially anticipated. And that's why they're saying so many more people are displaced.

RATH: Wow. And a lot of us have seen now these horrendous photos of the devastation caused by Haiyan. First, how have things improved where you are?

BEAUBIEN: Here in Tacloban, things are definitely getting better. But that said, there is a long way to go. You know, Haiyan destroyed so many houses and buildings and shacks that - over by the port, there's just this one river of broken houses and sheet metal. And there's dead pigs mixed in there. And the whole thing stinks, and it's just this huge pile of debris. And eventually, all of that is going to get cleaned up.

What has happened is they've managed to get that kind of debris out of the main streets so people can move around, which has allowed sort of life to come back to some degree. You know, not absolutely everything was destroyed, and so some people, some shop owners did have some things that were not destroyed in the typhoon. And they're bringing them out on the street and trying to sell little, you know, little satchels of, you know, soup bullion and soap and little things like that to make some money, but also to get those items back out there.

You can sort of see life starting to come back. That said, this is the area that has gotten the most attention. This town has had the most aid flow into it. And so it's really hard to say that that level of recovery is really happening everywhere.

RATH: And what about getting in those essentials, the food, water and medicine? There have been some reports that they were in short supply and criticism of President Aquino for this low pace of the response.

BEAUBIEN: Yeah. You know, it has been very slow. And a lot of that was just the sheer logistical challenges of getting roads open and what not. But, you know, you have to remember for people, almost all the food was destroyed when this storm surge came through here. The only option they have now is for food to come in from the aid groups. Yet, the aid groups haven't been able to get in because all the roads have been blocked and there have been logistical challenges. So there has been a lot of frustration.

You know, I asked one guy out in a market yesterday, what is the one thing you want right now? And he thought for a second and he said, rice. And then he said, actually, I want rice and water. So his one thing is rice and water. And it's really basic things that they want, and people still aren't getting them.

RATH: NPR's Jason Beaubien in Tacloban, Philippines. Jason, thank you.

BEAUBIEN: You're very welcome.

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