Philippine town suffers 434 dead but receives no government aid

PHILIPPINES - Like Tacloban City in Leyte across the San Juanico Strait, Basey town in Samar province bore the brunt of Supertyphoon "Yolanda" but has yet to receive attention from the national government, a provincial official said on Tuesday.

At least 434 people died in Basey during the typhoon's onslaught on Friday, said Christine Caidic of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC).

Nearly all of them were unidentified but had to be buried in mass graves in their villages because the bodies had started to smell, she said.

"We are appealing for help. We feel the national government has neglected us," Caidic, who is also the provincial information officer, told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

Yolanda nearly obliterated the town (population: 50,423), a popular tourist destination for its spectacular cathedral-like caves and underground rivers in the Sohoton National Park in Rawis, Barangay (village) Guirang.

95 per cent wiped out

"An initial assessment of our team there is that 95 per cent of the properties and structures in Basey were wiped out," Caidic said.

Only 42 of the fatalities were identified but were also buried in the mass graves in the villages of Baybay, Palaypay, Lawa-an, Loyo, Bacubac, Sulod and Cogon, she said.

Marabut, a neighbouring town (population: 15,115) was also devastated, but provincial officials have yet to establish the number of fatalities. Rescuers were still clearing the roads leading to the fifth-class municipality.

Initial reports said 12 people were missing, Caidic said.

With relief supplies to the survivors and fuel running low, the provincial government is worried that residents in the typhoon-stricken areas may resort to looting like what happened in Tacloban.

Officials have asked the military to secure the National Food Authority warehouse in the capital city of Catbalogan, especially after unidentified persons were seen near the premises. Only unarmed Army reservists are protecting the place.

Soldiers are also needed to guard the gasoline stations, grocery stores, pawnshops and money courier service, they said.

"I hope that through you (Inquirer), we will be heard and be given help. We need help," Caidic said, her voice breaking. "We feel we were left out by the national government because the focus is on Tacloban," she said.

So far, there has been no reported looting in Basey, Marabut or other towns in Samar. "But we cannot say we are safe, especially since it is really dark at night," Caidic said.

Evacuees' needs

Families do not want to leave Basey, she said. Some are cramped inside the municipal gymnasium while others put up improvised shelters outside their flattened houses.

Marabut needs tents or any other temporary shelters, Caidic said, but the province was short of construction materials. Vice Gov. Stephen Tan has set up a command centre for search-and-rescue operations in Marabut while his sister, Gov. Sharee Ann Tan, heads the generator-powered command centre in Catbalogan.