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Philippines typhoon relief complicated by earlier disasters

A young survivor rests on a pedicab surrounded by debris caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban in the eastern Philippine island of Leyte on November 11, 2013. The United States, Australia and the United Nations mobilised emergency aid to the Philippines as the scale of the devastation unleashed by Super Typhoon Haiyan emerged on November 11.

[UPDATED 11:00AM EST] Relief efforts are underway after a massive typhoon struck the Philippines on Friday, which ravaged cities, towns and fishing villages across the islands. Thousands are believed to be dead. The United Nations, the U.S., and the European Union are sending help as well as looking into longer-term assistance. But disaster relief budgets in the Philippines have already been drained by other catastrophes, including a 7.2 earthquake just last month.

"Four and a half million people have been affected in some way, shape, or form is what the government is saying here," says the BBC's Alistaire Leithead, reporting from Cebu, an island in the Philippines that was hit hard by the typhoon. He describes an eerie scene:

"Everything is in complete darkness. All the power is gone here. The only light is coming from a little bit of moon, and the orange glow of the fires people are burning in bins or in pits outside their homes, that kind of sets the silhouettes of these palm trees that have clearly been battered by the very high winds that came through here. Other trees, completely stripped of their leaves. There's debris all around the floors, piles of metal and wood from the houses that were destroyed that people are already trying to clear up."

With more bad weather expected later in the week, the government is having difficulty meeting the logistical challenges of aiding victims.

Dennis Chong from Cebu’s Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office says it’s difficult to get larger trucks carrying supplies into some villages because roads simply aren’t passable.

"They’re just putting anything over their heads just to keep them safe and warm at night," he says.

Meanwhile, Chong’s office is preparing for another storm expected to hit the province later this week.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio
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