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GV Face: Helping Haiyan Survivors in the Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, has killed thousands in central Philippines.

According to our local authors many more are stranded, without food, water and aid, in a wasteland that used to be their homes. Aid is simply not arriving quickly enough to these communities that survived Haiyan, locally referred to as Yolanda.

A week after the super typhoon hit the provinces of Leyte and Samar, in the Visayas islands, we'll be talking to our Philippine authors and an aid worker about how the country is coping with the disaster, the progress in rescue operations, and what we – the concerned international community – can do to help.

In this week's episode of GV Face, our South East Asia Editor Mong Palatino (@mongster) joins us from Manila, along with activist and video journalist Chantal Eco (@chantaleco), who is coordinating relief efforts in Manila for her native Leyte.

Some highlights from the conversation:

Mong Palatino (05:00 – 07:30):

The night before the storm hit the Philippines, the President came on live TV and promised zero casualties. He warned the public about the storm but he said the government was prepared and said his target was zero casualties. The 10,000 death report, came from a local police official, who has now been relieved from duty because of the estimate he gave. The President soon downgraded his estimate to 2,000. And then other officials said it was 4,000. Regardless whether the official estimate is 2,000, 4,000 or 10,000. The number of casualties could rise, because we do not know the situation in many areas. 

The Typhoon hit some of the poorest areas of the Philippines, most of these residents are farmers or fisherfolk, the poorest strata of the Philippines. Many of the these people still remain unreachable because of ruined roads and because of the remoteness of these places. So it is safe to say that the causalities really could reach more than 10,000. If not, definitely this disaster is the worst to hit the Philippines, despite this region being battered by so many storms every year, this is the worst disaster in terms of casualties and the amount of devastation it caused and the heavy effort that will be used to rehabilitate the affected towns. 

Chantal Eco (14:14 – 15:00)

For those that have families outside Tacloban (ground-zero of the disaster) and the affected areas, those that were brave enough, those that had the resources, they travelled to the affected areas in Tacloban to check on people, and collected names of the survivors and posted their information online just to calm their families trying to locate them.

Our colleagues in Tacloban regularly update us via SMS, because Internet is down in most areas and mobile connection is patchy.

The local government of Tacloban has set up a booth in a town hall (with Internet through Satellite phone) where people can call to let their loved ones know they are OK and post status messages on Facebook, everyone is given one minute on Facebook. 

Mong (19:00 – 21:00):

This is what they refer to as climate injustice. Our contribution to global pollution is extremely low, but we are one of the most vulnerable in terms of the harsh impact of climate change… Every year we are visited by more than 20 typhoons, many of which are disastrous, in fact the world's deadliest disaster in 2012 took place in the Philippines in the Mindanao Island the Southern part of the Philippines. This year the Central Philippines is hit, what is really tragic hear is Visayas was recently also hit by a powerful earthquake, which we reported on Global Voices. While we are recovering from the deadly impact of the earthquake, we are hit by this super typhoon, which triggered a storm surge. We were not prepared for the storm surge… some people say if they were warned of a tsunami they would have gone to a higher evacuation center. So the lesson here is that climate change is very real for Filipinos, especially its harsh impact. It's a wake up call for the international community to be more aggressive in tackling this problem because it is causing unnecessary deaths and so much devastation in small island groups like the  Philippines.

Chantal (21:10 – 23:00)

We are calling for help for the people of the provinces of Leyte and Samar, in the western part of the Visayas islands,especially those from remote areas…based on experiences when there are typhoons and disaster when we receive aid from the government clearly our government can not address the scale of the disaster. After the relief stage we need to rebuild the communities. Especially the fisher folk communities, along the shore line which were wiped out by the storm surge Many communities were wiped out because of the storm surge, they need help to rebuild their lives, livelihood, materials to rebuild their homes and boats so they can continue living on.

Also see Haiyan Devastates the Philippines, our special coverage page.

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