12/09/2006, 00.00
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Typhoon Durian survivors in desperate conditions

by Santosh Digal
The first aid teams to reach areas affected last week by the typhoon have sounded the alarm: displaced people are at high risk of infection and lack all manner of basic items.

Bicol (AsiaNews) – Communities struck last week by Typhoon Durian are desperate: they lack basic items, water and medicine and cannot start rebuilding because an enormous sea of mud has engulfed the area. Even land to bury the dead is in short supply.

The alarm was sounded today by aid groups that have managed to reach areas hit between 30 November and 1 December by the Force 5 hurricane (the highest according to international standards).

Medical assistance only reached the area yesterday: there is an extremely high risk of infection and epidemics among the displaced people. Babies and children sleep on the highest floors of elementary schools, while others have sought refuge in temporary shelters put up by rescue workers. And yet they believe they are very lucky: the typhoon claimed more than 1,300 lives.

In all, people affected by the typhoon amount to one and a half million, with 2,500 homes destroyed and damage to property estimated to be around five and a half million dollars. The typhoon hit hardest those villages surrounding Mount Mayon, an active volcano around 320km south of Manila. Here, torrential rains led to mud slides and the dislodging of great boulders. The debris buried more than 700 villages.

Jennifer Pamplona and her husband Radji are worried about their daughter, Sofia Jane: “She was born two weeks ago, and she has not eaten since the typhoon destroyed our home. She has been crying and feverish.”

Jun Espinas, an engineer, said water was one of the main problems. “We do not have drinking water and toilets are filled to capacity. There are so many children who are sickly now, and we can’t have an infection outbreak: we need medicines desperately.”

A disease surveillance team from the Department of Health has been dispatched to the area to administer anti-measles and polio vaccines and to offer treatment, even if very basic, for all. "There have been rising incidences of acute respiratory infections and loose bowel movements," said team leader Nancy Pastrana. "What is worrying us most is that conditions are congested and this is a typical breeding ground for diseases.”

Meanwhile, rehabilitation work in affected villages has been excruciatingly slow: roads have been destroyed or are full of mud. So far, it has not been possible to find solid ground to start rebuilding. More than a week after the disaster, the roads are still littered with bodies, partly buried by the mud.

The World Health Organization has said mass burials were “not necessary” at disaster sites because the corpses were unlikely to become the sources of disease outbreaks. All the same, local councils are urging cremation of dead people as there is no space to bury them all.

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See also
Typhoon Durian: reconstruction could take years
Typhoon Durian claims more than 1000 victims
Hopes fade of finding survivors buried in mud after typhoon
200 killed as Typhoon Durian strikes Philippines
Growing unemployment in the Philippines, also due to corruption and waste


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