Last updated Monday, October 20, 2014 07:09pm

A man points at one of the bags containing bodies of typhoon victims in Tacloban city, which was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, in central Philippines November 12, 2013. Relief efforts are intensifying with the help of the US military. — Reuters picA man points at one of the bags containing bodies of typhoon victims in Tacloban city, which was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, in central Philippines November 12, 2013. Relief efforts are intensifying with the help of the US military. — Reuters picTACLOBAN, Nov 14 — Scores of decaying bodies lay in bags outside Tacloban’s ruined city hall today, ready for trucking by overwhelmed Philippine authorities to mass graves, as destitute typhoon survivors pleaded for help of any kind.

Almost 200 corpses — many of them unidentified -- were lined up side by side outside the government building almost a week after one of the most powerful typhoons ever to make landfall smashed through the central Philippines, killing thousands.

“There are still so many cadavers in so many areas. It’s scary,” Tacloban mayor Alfred Romualdez said, adding that retrieval teams were struggling to cope.

“There would be a request from one community to collect five or 10 bodies and when we get there, there are 40,” Romualdez told AFP, claiming that aid agencies’ response to the increasingly desperate crisis had been too slow.

Six days after Super Typhoon Haiyan unleashed its fury, President Barack Obama urged Americans to dig deep in donations to their former Asian colony. US officials said relief channels were slowly opening up as an aircraft carrier leads a small armada of warships steaming towards the Philippines.

City mayor Alfred S. Romualdez turns emotional as he talks about the current situation of the city after the Super typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 14, 2013. Desperation gripped Philippine islands devastated by Typhoon Haiyan as looting turned deadly on November 13 and survivors panicked over shortages of food, water and medicine, some digging up underground water pipes and smashing them open. — Reuters picCity mayor Alfred S. Romualdez turns emotional as he talks about the current situation of the city after the Super typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 14, 2013. Desperation gripped Philippine islands devastated by Typhoon Haiyan as looting turned deadly on November 13 and survivors panicked over shortages of food, water and medicine, some digging up underground water pipes and smashing them open. — Reuters picBut on the ground, aid is still not getting through to the hungry and thirsty battling to survive the aftermath.

Sick or injured people lie helplessly among the ruins of buildings, while those with the energy try to leave a place that resembles hell.

“The situation is very dire now,” said Efren Nagrama, area manager at the civil aviation authority, as he surveyed the filthy stream of humanity at Tacloban’s battered airport clamouring to get a flight out.

“You see hundreds coming to the compound everyday. People who have walked for days without eating, only to arrive here and be made to wait for hours or days under the elements.

“People are pushed to the tipping point — they see relief planes but cannot get to the food nor get a ride out. There is chaos.”

In the Gallery


  • Super Typhoon Haiyan is seen approaching the Philippines in this Japan Meteorological Agency handout image taken at 0630 GMT (0130 EST) November 7, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Typhoon Haiyan hits the Philippines in this weather satellite image, courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency, taken at 0200 UTC November 8, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Red Cross volunteers and staff prepare sandbags in Cam Le district, Da Nang, ahead of Typhoon Haiyan's expected landfall November 9, 2013, in this handout photo provided by VNRC. — Reuters pic

  • Red Cross volunteers and staff place sandbags on houses in Hoa Hai ward, Ngu Hanh Son district, Da Nang, ahead of Typhoon Haiyan's expected landfall November 9, 2013, in this handout photo provided by VNRC. — Reuters pic

  • People cross a street against strong wind and heavy rainfall under the influence of Typhoon Haiyan, in Sanya, Hainan province November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • People ride against rain and wind under the influence of Typhoon Haiyan, in Qionghai, south China's Hainan province, November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • A wave surges under the influence of Typhoon Haiyan, in Haikou, south China's Hainan province, November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • An aerial view shows damaged structures as residents unload relief goods from a helicopter after Typhoon Haiyan hit a village in Panay island in northern Iloilo Province, central Philippines November 9, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Survivors walk on a road amidst heavy downpour after Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Thousands of homes are destroyed after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • A boy who was wounded by flying debris due to Super Typhoon Haiyan stays at the ruins of his family's house in Tacloban city November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Survivors walk among debris of thousands of homes destroyed after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Survivors walk under a fallen electric post after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Residents seek refuge inside a Catholic church which has been converted into an evacuation center after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Children play under the statues of saints inside a Catholic church which has been converted into an evacuation center after super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Residents hang a sign asking for a help in front of a catholic church after strong winds brought by super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Survivors take baths and wash their clothes with water from an open faucet after strong winds brought by super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • A pregnant woman cooks a meal inside a building overlooking destroyed houses after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Typhoon victims queue for food and water outside an airport after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 10, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Devastated houses float on sea water after super typhoon Haiyan hit Tacloban city, central Philippines November 11, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • A boy fills up a plastic bottle with water after super typhoon Haiyan hit Tacloban city, central Philippines November 11, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Residents rest under a cargo ship that was washed ashore four days after super typhoon Haiyan hit Anibong town, Tacloban city, central Philippines November 11, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • Marines secure gear onto a pallet during preparations for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission to the Philippines at the US Futenma airbase in Ginowan, on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, November 10, 2013 in this handout provided by US Marine Corps. — Reuters pic

  • Marines board a KC-130J Hercules aircraft at the US Futenma airbase in Ginowan, on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, November 10, 2013. A team of about 90 US Marines and sailors headed to the Philippines as part of the first wave of promised US military assistance for relief efforts, US officials said. — Reuters pic

  • A policeman stands guard as workers remove fallen trees in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Vietnam's northern Quang Ninh province, 180km away from Hanoi, November 11, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • A man checks a fallen television tower in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Vietnam's northern Quang Ninh province, 180km away from Hanoi, November 11, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • A man walks near a globe damaged by Typhoon Haiyan in Vietnam's northern Quang Ninh province, 180km away from Hanoi, November 11, 2013. — Reuters pic

  • A worker loads World Food Programme (WFP) relief goods inside the aircraft near Subang airport in Kuala Lumpur November 11, 2013, to be sent to victims of super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. — Reuters pic

  • A worker stands near World Food Programme (WFP) relief goods near Subang airport in Kuala Lumpur November 10, 2013, to be sent to victims of super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. — Reuters pic

  • A worker arranges World Food Programme (WFP) relief goods near Subang airport in Kuala Lumpur November 10, 2013, to be sent to victims of super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. — Reuters pic

‘An atmosphere of fear and depression’

Mayor Romualdez said the people of Tacloban needed an “overwhelming response” from aid organisations and the government.

“We need more manpower and more equipment,” Romualdez pleaded.

“I cannot use a truck to collect cadavers in the morning and then use it to distribute relief goods in the afternoon,” he added.

“Let’s get the bodies out of the streets. They are creating an atmosphere of fear and depression.”

Romualdez said the plan was to start mass burials in the nearby village of Basper today, a day after attempts to lay to rest some of the victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan were abandoned when gunshots halted a convoy travelling towards a communal grave.

City officials estimate that they have collected 2,000 bodies but insist many more need to be retrieved. The UN fears that 10,000 people may have died in Tacloban city alone, but President Benigno Aquino has described that figure as “too much”.

Romualdez said the bodies lying on the grass outside city hall were waiting for the military to transport them to two burial sites -- one for the identified and one for those whose names are not known.

The central government blamed the halt in corpse collection on a lack of body bags, but insisted yesterday that it would accelerate.

While the retrieval operation gets going, there are growing fears for the health of those who survived.

The World Health Organisation has said there were significant injuries that need to be dealt with — open wounds that can easily become infected in the sweltering tropical heat.

Experts warn that a reliable supply of clean drinking water is absolutely vital if survivors are not to fall victim to diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration and death, especially in small children.

Steaming to the rescue

Pledges of help continued to come in from abroad, with Obama yesterday urging Americans that “even small contributions can make a big difference and help save lives”.

Along with ships and planes sent by an array of countries including Australia, Britain and Japan, the United States has dispatched an advance force of Marines equipped with cargo planes and versatile Osprey aircraft.

The USS George Washington carrier and other Navy ships are expected in the Philippines by tomorrow and Washington has committed US$20 million, roughly half for food and the rest to prevent disease outbreaks.

One US official said relief workers were now able to get more aid out of Tacloban airport, and that the opening of a land route had given a significant boost by connecting to a sea port.

The initial effort was “a lot like trying to squeeze an orange through a straw”, the official told reporters on a conference call. “We are now getting more straws, if you will, and bigger straws.”

However, hundreds of Philippine soldiers and police continue to patrol Tacloban’s streets and man checkpoints to try to prevent pillaging after outbreaks of lawlessness, including gunfire yesterday that prevented the first mass burial going ahead. — AFP