Aid effort targets the hungry and sick

Aid effort targets the hungry and sick
A group of residents taking a shower as the stench of rotting corpses filled the air in Tacloban.

TACLOBAN, Philippines - As relief supplies stream into typhoon-devastated areas in the Philippines, the massive aid effort's focus switched to how best to get essential items to the hungry and sick.

In Tacloban, workers were still struggling to pick up remaining corpses from the rubble as the death toll shot up overnight.

With the United States leading the aid effort, helicopters and planes from its aircraft carrier USS George Washington, moored off the coast, launched non-stop flights yesterday to deliver boxes of supplies to thousands of victims of last week's Super Typhoon Haiyan.

A Norwegian vessel also arrived with goods from the UN World Food Programme including rice, medical equipment and over 6,000 body bags.

Philippine officials revised the death toll to 3,621, from 2,357 on Thursday. UN officials put the latest figure at 4,460.

Whatever the final figure, the more urgent task at hand is collecting the dead bodies and burying them. But even this has turned into an "it's your problem, not mine" tussle between Manila and local officials.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas called it the responsibility of the local government. But Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez said he did not have enough staff and equipment to do the job.

This has compounded fears of diseases spreading, with doctors warning that the dead could be a source of contagious diseases.

As the pace of the international relief effort picked up, the government has come under fire for being slow.

"In a situation like this, nothing is fast enough," Mr Roxas said in defence of the government. "The need is massive, the need is immediate, and you can't reach everyone."

This is one reason that squabbles have broken out among residents in different areas.

"Why is V&G (a sub-division in Tacloban) getting relief goods when Sagkahan district, which is more badly hit, is not getting any?" asked Sagkahan resident Emanuel Abanilla.

Moving goods is a problem, with trucks and petrol being scarce.

Mr Rob Muurveld, an officer with the UN World Food Programme, said: "The main challenge is getting our equipment here. If we can find a way to make it easier to get them here, that will make things better."

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