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Philippines declares state of national calamity

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The Philippine President Benigno Aquino has declared a state of national calamity to enable the government to respond more effectively to the devastation and chaos caused by monster Typhoon Haiyan.

“We declare a state of national calamity to hasten the action of the government to rescue, provide help and rehabilitate the provinces affected by [Haiyan],” the president said in a televised address on Monday.

He asked for patience as the unprecedented scale of damage made it harder to co-ordinate relief operations.

“The extent of the devastation brought us back to a situation where information was passed on from one person to another. There was no television, radio and internet,” he said.

“My message: Staying calm, prayer, and helping each other are what will lift us from this challenge,” he added.

Aquino said the two worst affected provinces, Leyte and Samar, had suffered massive destruction and loss of life.

Authorities in Tacloban, a city of 220,000 that is the capital of Leyte province, declared a state of emergency to restore law and order as looting continued, and spread to neighboring areas.

The city, which was hit first by the typhoon sweeping in from the Pacific Ocean to the east and later by waves coming in from the west, was almost entirely destroyed. Residents described their city as in a state of “anarchy,” with no government or police.

The official death toll, standing at 1,774 as of Monday night, was expected to rise to 10,000 or more, according to Philippine officials and relief workers who have surveyed the damage from the air.

“It has turned a lush tropic island into a waste land right now,’’ said Joe Curry, Philippines representative for Catholic Relief Services in the island of Leyte.

“We’ve had so many typhoons before, but nothing compared to how intense and devastating this was,” he noted.

A huge international relief effort is also under way across the worst-hit regions, and rescuers have struggled to reach some towns and villages cut off since the storm. Many are now struggling to survive without food, shelter or clean drinking water.

In a statement issued on Sunday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern over the situation in the Philippines, calling for international aid to help the Southeast Asian country after the massive storm.

Ban said he was “extremely concerned by the impact of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the largest storms to ever make landfall, which has affected some 9.5 million people in the Philippines and caused widespread destruction and displacement.”

Ban also called on “the international community to continue to show their solidarity with the people of the Philippines” and thanked the UN member states “for their prompt response, including bilateral funds, relief teams and civil-military support.”

Haiyan, one of the strongest storms recorded on earth, pounded the eastern Philippine island of Samar during the early hours of November 8, before barreling into six central islands.

An average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year. In December 2011, Typhoon Washi claimed the lives of 1,200 people, displaced 300,000 and destroyed more than 10,000 homes.

Typhoon Bopha last year flattened three coastal towns on the southern island of Mindanao, killing 1,100 people and causing damage estimated at USD 1.04 billion.


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