PHILIPPINES - United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday pledged to rally global support for victims of Supertyphoon "Yolanda" to help them recover from one of the Philippines' deadliest disasters.
"Never despair. The UN is behind you. The world is behind you," the UN chief said during a visit to the devastated Tacloban City.
Wearing a baseball cap, a khaki shirt and rubber shoes, the 69-year-old South Korean walked through a narrow, debris-strewn street in Fatima, a coastal district in the city of 220,000 people where tsunami-like storm surges wrought by Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) on Nov. 8 obliterated entire communities.
A ship that plowed through the area after being hurled by huge waves lay stranded nearby, six weeks after the deluge.
Ban also visited a Tacloban tent school, put up by the UN Children's Fund (Unicef), where pupils sang "Jingle Bells" for him. He joined them in clapping and swaying to the music.
"Please hold on," he told the children. "We have come to help you."
He handed out backpacks to almost 200 elementary schoolchildren there.
More than 200 heavily armed police provided security from the airport to the school. Ban's flight was delayed because of poor visibility and overcast skies.
Along the road, the UN chief passed by scenes of devastation-fallen trees, upturned vehicles, shattered houses and mounds of debris.
Tents provided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have replaced some houses that were swept away by the storm surge in the area.