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Typhoon Relief Supplies Badly Needed In Tacloban


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Days after a typhoon wrecked her hometown, Hazel Costine(ph) boarded a boat. She's 25 years old.

WERTHEIMER: Her town lies about an hour outside the devastated city of Tacloban. And when she needed to seek shelter and supplies, she had to leave her island in the Philippine archipelago. Once she reached the safety of another island, she was able to come to a telephone and tell us about the town she left behind.

HAZEL COSTINE: No water to drink. There's no food, no shelter. All the people have no houses already. In Ebaiu(ph), we found dead people in our beach, in the river also. It's coming from Tacloban.

WERTHEIMER: Hazel Costine is now gathering up groceries and gasoline, using money sent from a cousin in Australia.

COSTINE: I'm hoping that everybody will help us and I can ask for help here in Cebu City.

INSKEEP: Cebu City, that's where she is now, but the need for help is enormous in the region she left behind. We could sense that when we reached NPR's Anthony Kuhn, who's at the airport in the city of Tacloban.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: I would say in general, in the past day we have not seen a big difference in the amount of aid coming in or, from what I understand, the amount that's reaching the local populace.

INSKEEP: When you say there's no big change in the amount that's reaching the local populace, what does reach the airport, is it getting out into the city in some fashion? Are trucks moving out with aid?

KUHN: Well, I've heard from city officials that only about 20 percent of the population here is receiving any aid. And, of course, they're in very dire condition - needing food, water, electricity. And at the airport here, we're seeing many, many countries, airplanes coming in. But the people that we're seeing at the airport trying to get out seem just as desperate. There doesn't seem to be an increase in people getting out.

INSKEEP: Is the government functioning - the local officials, the police?

KUHN: Well, I've been talking to some of them today. And a police chief told me that they have a curfew in effect. They've got the looting that was taking place before under control. City officials seem to be expressing frustration that things are going so slowly. They feel they don't have the resources and the manpower.

And what I'm seeing at the moment is that people who want to use anything, just have to ship in from Manila or from overseas. Things like fuel. There's just a very basic and severe lack of resources here.

INSKEEP: Now, you mentioned people who also seem just as desperate as they did a day ago, people who you described yesterday as surging toward a plane when it arrived with you. And what kinds of stories do you hear when you talk to people like that who flocked to the airport?

KUHN: Well, I've met a lot of people who have lost loved ones. I have met a lot of people who feel that this city is finished. And whether or not they can rebuild their lives, they feel like they can never go back to this place. I meet a lot of people who are just still coping with the everyday emergencies of feeding themselves and taking care of their family, and suppressing the emotions that are welling up from the trauma they've been through.

It's something that I've seen in other disasters. In many ways it's reminiscent of the tsunami and earthquake that hit Japan a couple of years ago.

INSKEEP: The tsunami and earthquake that hit Japan, and we'll mention that you covered that - that was a disaster that struck one of the most advanced economies in the world. How, if at all, are things different in the Philippines - which is not as advanced an economy?

KUHN: Well, I think, Steve, that there are clearly questions of organization and distribution and efficiency here. For example, we note that aid convoys coming in to distribute aid to people have been looted. How are you going to distribute aid if it can't be done in an orderly way - if it becomes a riot?

So this, I think, is going to become a focus of attention. And I think there are going to be people scrutinizing how well the bureaucracy is handling of this. Of course we've spoken to people right off the bat who said: We are angry at the government for not doing more to help us, even though they say they're doing that.

INSKEEP: When you talk about aid convoys being looted, what's happening there? Is that people who are just so desperate that they see an opportunity to get food, or some other supplies, and they grab it?

KUHN: Yes. I think there's some of just sheer survival. You know, I've spoken to many ordinary folks who would not do such things in ordinary times, but have done it just sheerly to stay alive.

INSKEEP: NPR's Anthony Kuhn is in Tacloban in the Philippines. Anthony, thanks very much.

KUHN: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.