Manila — (UPDATE) A huge international relief effort is under way for the desperate survivors of the typhoon-devastated areas of the Philippines, but journalists and rescue workers at the scene say reaching the affected areas is difficult.
US and UK military vessels are headed to the Philippines to provide humanitarian aid, and the international community has pledged over US$54 million in aid so far.
Philippine soldiers and US marines are in Tacloban city, perhaps the worst-hit area, distributing food and helping with the relief effort.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino has declared a state of national calamity.
Typhoon Haiyan is feared to have killed at least 10,000 people, and the thousands of survivors are in desperate need of aid, even food and water, but reports say little is getting through due to bad weather and damaged infrastructure.
Rain is complicating the relief effort, and yet another typhoon is expected in the next 72 hours.
Over 580,000 people have been displaced and 41,000 houses damaged, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described images of the devastation as “heartbreaking”.
The UN is launching a large-scale humanitarian plan and allocating US$25 million “to fund critical relief efforts,” he said.
“Many thousands of people are reported to have died and almost 10 million people have been affected… Let us all show our solidarity with the people of the Philippines at this time of need,” he added.
An Air Force captain told the AP the scene in Tacloban city was “overwhelming”.
He said “We need more medicine. We cannot give anti-tetanus vaccine shots because we have none,” said a report.
Officials said looting was widespread and proving difficult to enforce, but correspondents say many ordinary people are simply scavenging for food and water needed to survive.
Correspondents say many of the survivors in Tacloban have seen no aid at all.
One UN humanitarian official said, “Many places are strewn with dead bodies“.
The typhoon, named Yolanda in the Philippines, slammed into some areas with waves as high as 15 meters (45 feet), as much as 400mm (15.75 inches) rain, and wind gusts of 275 km (170 mph).
The weakened typhoon reached Vietnam on Monday, where at least 13 people died, though the fatalities evidently took place during preparations before the storm made landfall.