Typhoon Haiyan: Therapists help survivors deal with psychological fallout

Typhoon Haiyan: Therapists help survivors deal with psychological fallout

ACLOBAN, Philippines - Dozens of psychologists were starting work in the typhoon-raked Philippines on Wednesday to help dazed survivors deal with the psychological fallout of one of the country's worst ever disasters.

The operation is an early attempt by health professionals to head off what they fear could be serious problems down the road, even as the physical scars from the tragedy begin to heal.

There have been sporadic incidents of riots and looting, including the storming of a rice warehouse that left eight people dead, and experts warn these could spiral if the root causes - loss and helplessness - are not addressed.

"We are worried that in the next few days, there will be anarchy," said Ms Annabelle de Veyra, chief administrator of the health department for the region.

"Two big stores have already been looted. It's not just food that they are getting. It's more of a psychological reaction," she told AFP.

"People from Tacloban are not like that. They need psychological counselling," she added.

A 55-member team of psychologists from the health department arrived in Tacloban on Tuesday to help some of the city's 220,000 inhabitants deal with the disaster, which is feared to have cost as many as 10,000 lives.

Stories of almost unimaginable tragedy abound in Tacloban, a place where parents have been forced to abandon the bodies of their children as they struggle to hold on to their own shattered lives.

Those who have the strength are trying to flee the stench of death that hangs in the city; others wander its broken streets, dazed by the magnitude of the horror they have confronted.

Dr Nedy Tayag, a clinical psychologist for the health department, told AFP that behaviour being exhibited by the typhoon survivors was typical among those confronted by massive disasters or destructive conflict.

"Their reaction is normal in light of the abnormal situation," the doctor said.

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