Philippines update: Salvation Army ready to assist

Typhoon survivors take shelter from the rain as they queue up in the hopes of boarding an evacuation flight on a C-130 military transport plane, Tuesday Nov. 12, 2013, in Tacloban, central Philippines. Thousands of typhoon survivors swarmed the airport on Tuesday seeking a flight out, but only a few hundred made it, leaving behind a shattered, rain-lashed city short of food and water and littered with countless bodies.

The Salvation Army is responding to the urgent need for assistance for the estimated 11 million Filipino's affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Salvation Army teams are currently preparing to transport seven tonnes of food to the areas worst hit by the storm.

They are facing huge challenges, however, as damage to roads and infrastructure is widespread and hindering efforts to reach isolated communities.

Many representatives from the Salvation Army are already on the ground, supporting survivors in the aftermath of the tragedy.

"Salvation Army corps in the areas most affected – such as Leyte and the Visayas Islands – have fully distributed all available food from their welfare supplies and are keenly awaiting the arrival of food, water and medicine," Territorial Commander Colonel Wayne Maxwell explained.

Damaris Frick, from The Salvation Army's International Emergency Services, has arrived in the Philippines from London and will be working in partnership with territorial headquarters staff to assess the needs. An executive meeting with Salvation Army leaders was due to take place on Thursday.

Disaster response has dominated the work of the Philippines Territory lately as the country has already suffered the effects of 24 other tropical storms this year, but The Salvation Army said Haiyan was on an unprecedented and catastrophic scale. The Filipino government says it is facing its biggest ever logistical challenge.

The latest statistics from the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), a committee made up of fourteen British aid agencies including the British Red Cross, World Vision, Tearfund, and Save the Children, indicate that around 700,000 people have been displaced across the Philippines.

There have been countless fatalities, with officials in the Philippines confirming the death toll to be at least 2,275.

The humanitarian impact is thought to be colossal, with extensive damage to hundreds of thousands of homes, livelihoods and businesses. In the capital city of Leyte province, Tacloban, there are reports of up to 95% damage, which will take years to rebuild.

It has become a fight for survival for much of the population, reports Tata Abella-Bolo, a female aid worked for Oxfam.

"People are desperate for food and water, as rice and other staples have been washed away and water pipes damaged by falling buildings. People are struggling for survival," she said.

She told of how she found three sisters aged ten, eight and five each carrying a jerry can of sea water through the streets of Daanbantayan, a devastated town in the region of Cebu. They said they made the trip ten times a day to help their mother, and are forced to drink the water without boiling the salt off as they don't have enough fuel.

The people of the Philippines are trying to rebuild their lives in the wake of the typhoon, but many challenges lie ahead.

"The world needs to stand by the Philippines right now and for months and years to come," urges Brendan Paddy of the DEC.