The Philippines government has defended its efforts to deliver aid to victims of Typhoon Haiyan, many of whom have still not received assistance. The UN puts the rising death toll at 4,460 amid disputed figures.
Philippines Interior Secretary Mar Roxas admitted Friday that aid had been slow in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which hit one week ago. He asserted, however, that relief efforts were beginning to pick up.
“The need is massive, the need is immediate, and you can’t reach everyone,” Roxas told reporters in Tacloban City, the capital of the worst-hit province of Leyte.
“Every day is better than yesterday. There is nothing fast enough in a situation like this because so many were affected and infrastructure damaged,” he said.
Roxas added that vehicles carrying supplies had now reached 30 out of 40 towns in the province. Trucks were also working to carry away bodies and debris.
Foreign governments, meanwhile, continued to dispatch food, water, medical supplies and trained staff to the region on Friday. The US aircraft carrier USS George Washington arrived off Leyte, with helicopters on board dropping aid to the worst affected areas.
“One of the best capabilities the Strike Group brings is our 21 helicopters,” the commander of the George Washington Strike Group, Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery said in a statement ahead of the mission. “These helicopters represent a good deal of lift to move emergency supplies around,” he added.
Differing death toll figures
Citing regional officials, the United Nations reported Friday that the death toll from the typhoon, which hit the central Philippines on November 8, had now reached 4,460.
According to news agency Reuters, a notice board in Tacloban City Hall estimated the deaths at 4,000, up from 2,000 a day before. It reported that the toll was compiled by local officials who began the process of burying bodies in a mass grave on Thursday.
But government officials have not raised the nationwide death toll above an earlier figure of 2,357.
The United Nations humanitarian office estimates that more than 11 million people were affected by Haiyan’s destruction. Of these, an estimated 600,000 people were displaced and remain in desperate need of food, water and shelter.
ccp/ipj (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)