At Tacloban Airport, Aid Workers Arrive As Residents Try To Leave

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The town of Tacloban on the island of Leyte in the Philippines was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. The scene at the airport there was chaotic as the Philippine and U.S. military delivered food and aid workers and residents rushed to board planes headed back to less-damaged Manila .


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish. It's been five days since Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippine's eastern seaboard, yet very little aid is reaching desperate residents. The problem isn't a lack of goodwill. Plenty of countries and aid groups are pledging and sending help to the Philippines. The problem in this nation of many islands is logistical.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn begins our coverage with this report on the grim scene in Tacloban, one of the hardest hit cities.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: U.S. and Philippine military transports landed and took off from the shattered Tacloban airport. They unloaded pallets of food, aid workers, soldiers and journalists, even as another tropical depression came through dumping more rain. Crowds barged past Philippine soldiers carrying rifles to try to board departing transports.

Storm survivors sheltered in ruined buildings that looked like they're in a war zone. Some residents cooked what little food they had on open fires. At dinner time, I spoke with two cousins, Esfer(ph) and Kimbert Maceda. They asked me if I had any food. What have you done for food in the past four days?

KIMBERT MACEDA: Canned goods.

KUHN: Where did you take the food from?

MACEDA: From the mall, Robinson's, all over (unintelligible). We have no food. There are many people dying. Dying because no food.

KUHN: The airport is several miles' walk from the town of Tacloban. The cousins told me the city center smells terrible because of all the decomposing bodies and they felt it wasn't safe to stay there, even though the government has declared a national state of emergency. Kimbert Maseda says that prisoners who escaped in the chaos were attacking people.

MACEDA: Very dangerous 'cause there's a lot of prisoners, prisoners escaped from the prisons. Many girls was raped (unintelligible) area.

KUHN: Off the tarmac near a Philippine army tent, World Health Organization team leader Patricia Kormass was meeting with colleagues. She says that four days after the disaster, doctors and medical supplies are far from enough to meet residents' needs.

PATRICIA KORMOSS: This (unintelligible) hospital here, out of the five, there is only one working. The others will may be able to start again in the coming days. There is a big problem of water supply, of electricity, of manpower.

KUHN: Coremas says things are improving in Tacloban, but very slowly.

KORMOSS: The roads are still blocked. Access, I mean inside the city, it's starting only to get a little bit better. We still cannot reach all the areas of the city so don't even mention outside of the city.

KUHN: Military cargo planes carrying in relief materials are carrying Tacloban storm survivors out to Manila, the nation's capital. It was not damaged by the storm. At the airport in Manila, relieved Tacloban residents exited the military transports for teary reunions with their loved ones. Susie Miller of Ware Shoals, South Carolina told me how she and her husband rode out the storm in their home in Tacloban.

SUSIE MILLER: The water was like eight and a half feet - seven a half feet and we went upstairs to the bedroom. I floated on the bed and my husband was looking for a way out and the water was up to his chest. And then we prayed and prayed and the waters finally began to go down and we were safe.

KUHN: Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Tacloban.

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