Tacloban devastation worse than reported, says Salvation Army

(Photo: The Salvation Army in the Philippines)Salvation Army Tacloban personnel load the Salvation Army emergency vehicle with water and snacks for the airport

The Salvation Army says that the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is even more extensive than first thought.

The Territorial leaders of The Salvation Army in the Philippines, Colonels Wayne and Robyn Maxwell, are coordinating response efforts in Tacloban, the capital city of Leyte province which has suffered some of the worst of the damage.

They are not only providing physical aid but are also bringing a message of hope and God's love to survivors.

Currently working alongside them is the London-based International Secretary for the Salvation Army's South Pacific and East Asia Zone, Commissioner Gillian Downer.

Colonel Wayne Maxwell has reported that the devastation is "worse than reported by the media", latest estimates are that four million homes are uninhabitable and livelihoods have been entirely destroyed. The country's National Disaster Agency has said the death toll is now over 5,000, with many more people still missing.

It reports Haiyan to have been the deadliest natural disaster in the Philippines' history.

Despite the huge needs, The Salvation Army reports that stories of hope punctuate the scenes of destruction and loss. Workers met a family who miraculously all survived, including a two-week old, who was born just before the super storm hit.

However, the family have lost everything they had, including their home, and many others in their area weren't as fortunate and the death toll is still climbing.

Military evacuations have resumed from Tacloban Airport, but the queues are tremendous.

The Salvation Army is providing a supply of clean water and snacks to between 600 and 1,000 people every day, and is distributing emergency supplies to hundreds of families. Aid is being distributed in Cebu and Manila, where evacuees are now arriving regularly.

The UK government is also continuing to support the relief effort. Some 500 tonnes of aid from the UK has just arrived in the Philippines aboard aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious.

The ship is carrying emergency food, water, tools and materials for shelter, and will use helicopters to deliver aid to those in isolated areas. It replaces HMS Daring, another British naval vessel that has been in the Philippines for two weeks, delivering aid and contributing to the effort to help survivors of the tragedy.

Four new flights carrying aid are due to be sent this week from the UK, and the UK Government has pledged to give long-term support to the Philippines, promising a further £11 million to build infrastructure and protect women and children.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening has released a statement saying: "The UK will be working hard to help build a better future for all the people of the Philippines, including girls and women, who are often the ones who suffer disproportionally in the wake of crises like this."