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Thursday, 21 November 2013 08:00

Yolanda Death Toll Reaches 5000

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by Genalyn Kabiling and Elena Aben
November 21, 2013 (updated)

Manila, Philippines – Authorities on the ground in Tacloban City have recovered 116 more bodies, which could bring the death toll from super-typhoon “Yolanda” to 5,258.

From Saturday until Monday, Task Force Cadaver, headed by Senior Supt. Pablito Cordeta, said it had collected 1,056 bodies in various parts of the city – 780 on Saturday, 125 on Sunday, and 151 on Monday.

But while the Task Force Cadaver continued to recover more bodies in the typhoon-ravaged city, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s (NDRRMC) death toll in Tacloban stood at 696. The NDRRMC count has been the same since November 13.

The latest NDRRMC bulletin placed the total death toll from Yolanda all over the Visayas at 4,011, while 18,557 others were injured and 1,602 more are still missing.

Apparently, the bodies collected by Task Force Cadaver and buried in mass graves after being processed, have not yet been added to the NDRRMC update.

As of Wednesday, the NDRRMC said Yolanda affected a total of 2,145,359 families or 9,996,065 persons. Of these total numbers, 893 families or 4,400,697 persons were displaced. Still in 1,526 evacuation centers were 85,652 families composed of 398,377 individuals.

The NDRRMC placed the total damage to property at P12,238,957,467.92.

United States authorities said at least five Americans were confirmed to be among the thousands of fatalities.

Normal Life Returning To Tacloban

The head of the NDRRMC said that two weeks after super-typhoon “Yolanda” struck the country, normal life has started to resume in Tacloban City.

In a press briefing at Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, NDRRMC Executive Director Eduardo del Rosario said, “Nagkaroon ng peace and order stability at nag-resume na yung normalization ng buhay in Tacloban City.” Some banks, malls, groceries, gas stations, and other establishments have now resumed operations.

Rebuilding Biggest Challenge

Meanwhile, a general leading the United States’ humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in the Visayas said the biggest challenge facing the government and typhoon victims now is rebuilding.

Joint Task Force 505 (JFT 505) commander Lt. Gen. John Wissler, who is also the head of the 3rd Marine Expedition Force, said, “The recovery effort has taken on a great energy over the last two days and has shown a great infusion of Philippine military, Philippine government, and international aid, and USS Agency for International Development (USAID) organization support through the ongoing operation.”

“This has been one of the most devastating typhoons to hit the Philippines in a long time, the magnitude of which would have been difficult for any country to overcome,” he said . But the resilience of the Filipino people and the coordination of both the Philippine government with the US and other international aid is making a great difference every day, Wissler said. “It has saved lives,” he stressed.

Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, commander of the USS Strike Group, said he was impressed by the preservation of civil society in the typhoon-battered areas despite the enormous destruction caused by the storm. “The discipline, strength, and resilience of the Philippine people and government really show in the maintenance of good civil order. I recognize that there is a long road ahead, but I can’t help but be moved by the resilience of the Philippine people,” he said.

Funding Options Studied

In Malacañang, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the national government is considering its options, including a possible supplemental budget, to provide for the “Yolanda” relief efforts, after the Supreme Court declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional.

Since the congressional pork barrel funds will return to the National Treasury, funds for relief and rehabilitation can be tapped through a supplemental budget to be proposed to Congress, he said.

The budget proposal was among the matters discussed in President Aquino’s meeting with some Cabinet members in the Palace, he said.

Lacierda also said that the government is also concerned with sustaining the funding for the scholars and medical patients previously funded by the legislators’ PDAF.

Drilon For Supplemental Budget

Instead of creating a P30-billion fund to aid victims and rehabilitate swaths of land damaged by super-typhoon Yolanda, Congress should fast-track approval of a supplemental budget in the General Appropriations Act of 2013 for the rehabilitation program of Leyte and other provinces destroyed by calamity, Senate President Franklin Drilon said yesterday.

The supplemental fund, Drilon said, should represent the savings from the unspent P14.5-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for this year which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional.

Drilon has filed Senate Bill No. 1938 for this purpose, which he said, President Benigno Aquino III should immediately certify as urgent. Congress should pass the bill before the GAA of 2013 lapses by December 31, 2013, he said.

The supplemental fund, he said, can be used for the rehabilitation not only for the catastrophe brought about by “Yolanda” but also the other typhoons that battered the country, as well as the 7.2- magnitude earthquake which jolted the Visayas last October and the armed conflict that caused the displacement of thousands of residents of Zamboanga City last September.

US Nurses Reach Out

At least 1,500 nurses working in the United States will be Philippines-bound, dispatched in several batches, to augment Filipino medical contingents aiding the victims of super-typhoon “Yolanda.”

The first batch of volunteer-nurses, with disaster assessment experience, arrived in Manila from San Francisco over the weekend to join 36 other Filipino members of the 170,000-strong National Nurses United (NNU) already in the country.

The Registered Nurses Response Network (RNRN), a project of the California Nurses Foundation, launched a campaign to reach out to support local caregivers who are on the front lines right after news of the devastation to lives and property wrought by “Yolanda” in the Visayan region.

RNRN, also known as Heroes for Disaster Relief, called for volunteer nurses in the US and reponses were received from 50 states and its affiliate organizations in 12 other countries. Those who cannot come contributed to the response network funds. Each team will stay in affected areas in the country from 10 to 14 days for the humanitarian mission.

NNU had been in constant communication with the Philippine Alliance of Health Workers, an affiliate organization.

Zenei Triunfo Cortez, a top official of California nurses’ group, said every nurse sent was trained on disaster situations. Cortez, the first Filipino to head the group founded in 1903, added that the initial team “will effectively determine needs on the ground as we continue to contact volunteers.”

Filipino migrant Mary Faith Buenaventura, a medical neurology unit nurse at Kaiser Permanente in San Jose City, California, with training in disaster assistance, said she had not gone back to Manila for more than a decade, “but this time for a compelling and self-fulfilling reason to be of help.” (With reports from Hannah L. Torregoza and Luchie A. 

Source:: Manila Bulletin 

Read 1961 times Last modified on Thursday, 21 November 2013 15:01

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