11/19/2013, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Manila divides area affected by Typhoon Haiyan into blocks to coordinate operations

The aim is to improve intervention, with foreign aid going to distinct blocks. So far, almost 4,000 people are known to have died but the final tally is not yet in. Catholics continue their work for typhoon victims. About 68,000 parcels with basic necessities have been distributed so far. About US$ 300,000 have been raised to fund relief operations.

Manila (AsiaNews) - The Filipino government plans to divide the area affected by Typhoon Haiyan, especially central Visayas, into blocks to improve foreign relief operations and aid distribution.

Although the country is still engaged in a race against time to bring relief to victims of Yolanda (the name used in the Philippines for Typhoon Haiyan), the size and its insular nature of its territory and the difficulties in some areas represent a serious obstacle to intervention even 11 days after the disaster.

According to the National Secretariat of Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops' Conference (CBCP-NASSA), almost 11 million people suffered damage or losses in 574 different municipalities and cities. As such, the disaster is threatening one of Asia's fastest-growing and hottest emerging economies.

Meanwhile, Church and Catholic associations continue their efforts in the area bringing food, drinking water and basic necessities to the people most touched by tragedy.

According to experts, humanitarian relief and recovery may take months, if not years. in many places, the situation is still difficult and complicated.

In view of this, the government's relief plan is to divide the region into blocks and decide which military forces operate where. For example, a British destroyer is involved in mercy missions in the Western Visayas region. US forces are operating in Samar and Leyte. Israeli teams are operating in the northern tip of Cebu.

According to the latest numbers, about 3,900 people died in the disaster; however, estimates of the overall death toll have varied widely. The governor of worst-hit Leyte province said more than 4,000 people could have been killed on the island of Leyte alone.

With much of the country's economy crippled by the disaster, some five million workers have had their lives turned upside down by Typhoon Haiyan, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said.

Some islands may still not have been reached by aid workers, the United Nations warned, a claim that government has denied. "Basically, we've provided everyone with relief," a Filipino government official said.

Many economists do not expect the disaster to cause long-term damage to the country's growth, although it will be necessary to boost reconstruction operations and resume development programmes.

In all this, the Filipino Catholic Church has led the way with Caritas activists and ordinary Catholics involved as far as possible in providing aid, grants, assistance, solidarity and prayers.

According to CBCP-NASSA, 1,598 people are still missing. The number of injured in need of treatment stands at 18,175. More than four million people have been displaced and more than 571,000 have lost their home.

NASSA oversaw the distribution of more than 68,000 parcels of basic necessities in 13 different dioceses, raising 13 million pesos (almost US$ 300,000) to buy food and other necessities for at least 345,000 people.

At present, a permanent office is being set up in Cebu to improve coordination in current and future relief action aimed at reconstruction.

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