PHILIPPINES - Five days after Supertyphoon "Yolanda" flattened the central Philippines, thousands of victims were still crying out for food on Wednesday, their dead left rotting by the roadside, prompting CNN's Anderson Cooper to declare that "there is no real evidence of organised recovery or relief."
Even as an enormous global aid effort gathered momentum and relief supplies began trickling into the airport in Tacloban, capital of the worst-hit province of Leyte, officials did not have a full grasp of the magnitude of the devastation and could provide no guidance on when basic emergency needs could be met.
While President Aquino suggested in a CNN interview on Wednesday that estimates of 10,000 or more dead may turn out to be high, international relief officials said they were still assuming the worst and were worried that bottlenecks and delays could prevent them from reaching millions of victims for days.
Officials in Manila found themselves on the defensive, asserting that they were doing the best they could despite a storm that Valerie Amos, the top United Nations relief coordinator, who flew to Manila on Tuesday to help take charge of efforts, called the "most deadly and destructive" to hit the Philippines.
Amos pleaded for more than $300 million (S$10.5 million) in emergency aid.
Malacañang admitted on Tuesday that it had asked the United States for help and that many survivors had not received relief.
"We've asked the US for aid and the secretary of defence says they are sending an aircraft carrier and a couple of other ships-those are en route," said Ricky Carandang, a spokesman for the Palace.
"There are lots of remote areas that haven't received aid," Carandang said. "The priority is to supply food and water. With communications partially functioning, with ports and roads blocked, we need to get that clear first. We need to get the roads clear before you can get the aid to them."
Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) slammed into the Samar-Leyte area on Friday with sustained winds of up to 215 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 250 kph, then swept across the central Philippines, flattening entire towns, killing a still undetermined number of people, and knocking down power and communication lines.
The government blames its slow response to the lack of power and communications and questions the death toll estimate of 10,000, only to show the absence of organisation in responding to the crisis.