Turkey joins relief efforts in Philippines

Turkey joins relief efforts in Philippines

TACLOBAN, Philippines
Turkey joins relief efforts in Philippines

An aerial view of the devastation of super Typhoon Haiyan is seen as it battered a town in Samar province in central Philippines. REUTERS photo

Turkey has joined relief efforts for the disaster-hit Philippines where rescuers faced blocked roads and damaged airports as they raced to deliver desperately needed tents, food and medicine to the typhoon-devastated country where thousands are believed dead.

Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay departed late Nov. 10 from Ankara to the Philippines with a cargo plane of 65 tons of relief supplies. “The first batch of aid includes tents, blankets, kitchen tools and other necessary equipment,” Atalay said before his departure, adding the Prime Ministry’s Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) and Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) would continue to supply aid after needs were determined. Presidents of AFAD and the Turkish Red Crescent, Fuat Oktay and Ahmet Lütfi Akar will accompany the deputy prime minister.

 Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, meanwhile, sent a telegram to President Benigno Aquino, offering his condolences and pledging to deliver support and aid to the disaster-stricken country.

Looting and mobs

More than 10,000 people are feared to have died when super typhoon Haiyan sent tsunami-like waves and brutal winds tearing across large swathes of the Philippine archipelago on Nov. 8, with the city of Tacloban being one of the worst-hit areas. Rescue workers were struggling to deliver desperately needed aid to thousands of hungry and homeless survivors in Tacloban, a city of 220,000 and the capital of the Leyte province. The task was made more difficult by looting, with mobs breaking into supermarkets and even raiding a Red Cross aid convoy. Survivors also reported gangs stealing consumer goods including televisions and washing machines from small businesses. More than 600,000 people were displaced across the country by the storm and some have no access to food, water, or medicine, the U.N. said.

Along with Turkey, many countries and organizations are mobilizing emergency aid to the Philippines. The Pentagon is sending military personnel and equipment to assist with the relief effort following the typhoon, which may have killed more than 10,000 people in what is feared to be the country’s worst natural disaster. “The United States is already providing significant humanitarian assistance, and we stand ready to further assist the government’s relief and recovery efforts,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement.

The Australian government pledged $9.38 million, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop describing the unfolding tragedy as “absolutely devastating” and on a “massive scale.”

United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon promised U.N. humanitarian agencies would “respond rapidly to help people in need.” The U.N. children’s fund UNICEF said a cargo plane carrying 60 tons of aid, including shelter and medicine, would arrive in the Philippines today, to be followed by deliveries of water purification and sanitation equipment. The World Food Program is airlifting 40 tons of high-energy biscuits, enough to feed 120,000 people for a day, as well as emergency supplies and communications equipment.

 The European Commission said it would give $4 million towards relief efforts. Britain offered an emergency support package worth $9.6 million. Germany’s embassy in Manila said an initial shipment of 23 tons of aid was being flown in and German rescue teams were already at work. 

Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said it was sending 200 tons of aid including medicine, tents and hygiene kits to arrive mid-week. Oxfam, the British-based relief organization, said it has sent an assessment team ahead of aid operations.