As aid begins to reach some typhoon survivors, doctors face grim supply shortage

There are signs of progress in organizing food and other aid for devastated Philippine communities, but logistical issues continue to complicate delivery. Meanwhile, doctors are unsure how much longer they can keep patients alive without supplies. John Sparks and Mark Austin of Independent Television News report from Tacloban.


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JUDY WOODRUFF: The Central Philippines struggled for another day under the weight of its developing humanitarian crisis, and the aid isn't coming fast enough for many.

We have two reports from Independent Television News, beginning with John Sparks in Tacloban.

A warning: Some of the images may be disturbing.

JOHN SPARKS: Carried upon a simple cart, another body was wheeled to the grounds of the local auditorium and left to lie in the burning sun with hundreds of others. A small number of officials try to identify them, but there simply aren't enough to do the job.

Up the street, at city hall, there were people willing to help, aid workers and volunteers here to help the living and bury the dead. But we saw them waiting for instructions or transport or supplies.

The mayor was struggling to cope with his emotions and the mounting demands of others.

Things aren't working at the moment. People are desperate.

ALFRED ROMUALDEZ, mayor of Tacloban: Not the way it should, yes.

Well, you can -- you saw it yourself. I'm trying to fix them first. And here is what I'm trying to get out -- get the news out. What we need here are more warm bodies to start doing manual labor.

JOHN SPARKS: In a city where many are going hungry, there were signs of progress and manual labor at a local warehouse today, volunteers preparing for the first delivery of food aid.

And a national government minister was there to oversee it.

We spoke to the mayor this morning, and he said the national government wasn't doing enough. There weren't enough people on the ground. There simply weren't enough men here.

MANUEL ROXAS, Philippines Department of the Interior: Maybe that's more of a political statement from him than a statement in reality. Why don't you go up to city hall and see what's functioning there vs. what the national government is doing?

JOHN SPARKS: Well, the national government calls this the rice brigade. And we caught a lift on one of the first trucks into Tacloban.

It's taken seven days to organize, but the first batch of food and water is now on the move, ready for distribution to people who desperately need it. But it's not a simple process. Splintered trees and precarious power lines slowed our progress and the authorities worried our cargo would get hijacked. But we made it to the first drop-off point.

Is this the first time you have received food?

AMELIA SARINAS, survivor (through interpreter): Yes, just now. It's the first assistance we have got.

JOHN SPARKS: Ms. Sarinas said we could follow her home. And we were astonished by what we saw. Amelia Sarinas, her mother and four children don't have a choice, and they will do what they can to survive.

How much food have you had over the last couple of days?

WOMAN: This is the only one, the first time.

JOHN SPARKS: There is much fortitude here, where the living coexist with the dead. The relief effort has begun, but it will take months or even years to resurrect this community.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For many in the Central Philippines, the need is for more than water and food.

Mark Austin of Independent Television News was out in Tacloban this evening and met a doctor who's not sure he can keep his patients alive without additional medical supplies.

MARK AUSTIN: Tonight, in this wasted land of skeletal trees and hungry people, they are fending for themselves, as they have done every night since the storm did its worst here, decent people of a broken city turned by catastrophe into scavengers, a city of death, where they turn their backs on the bodies which still lie uncollected in the streets.

Earlier, when we sheltered from a storm at the local hospital, this is what we found, water pouring through smashed roofs, flooding corridors, where Tacloban's sick and injured lie awaiting treatment. This is not outside the hospital, but inside.

The intensive care neonatal unit is now in the hospital chapel. These are the babies of the storm, one born on the 8th of November, the very night it raged. But the lack of supplies and medicines and the danger of infection mean many may not survive.

DR. ALBERTO DE LEON, hospital director: It's very distressing. I foresee, if it's not -- if this is not corrected immediately, there could be babies dying.

MARK AUSTIN: You think some of these babies will die?

ALBERTO DE LEON: Yes, if this is not corrected properly and immediately.

MARK AUSTIN: I met Lowena Mubag, who gave birth to her baby today. But her injuries and blank stare only hint at her horrific story. On the day of the storm, five of her children drowned. Her nurses are doing their best for her.

ANNIE SIA, nurse: What has been lost is lost. Now that they are -- those who are alive should go on, should go on. We have to survive. We have to go have hope as long as the sun is shining. We have to have hope.

MARK AUSTIN: It is difficult to overstate how miserable things are at this hospital. Like the city itself, it is living a nightmare.