Relief aid appeal by Philippines

Officials in the Philippines have called for international aid to help more than half a million people hit by devastating back-to-back storms. 

Social Welfare Secretary, Corazon Soliman, said a priority was to rebuild water systems and help those whose farms and livelihoods have been lost. 

More than 1,000 are dead or missing, in the north and east of the country, following four storms in two weeks. 

US ambassador Francis Ricciardone has visited one of the badly-hit areas. 

He said what he saw in eastern Quezon province was "worse than I had imagined". 

"It was quite distressing, logs everywhere, mud everywhere, roads were cut off in many places and bridges were down," he said after his visit. 

He said roads and bridges needed to repaired immediately to allow relief through. 

Evacuation plea 

Navy ships are bringing drinking water, food, medicines and clothes to the eastern coast.

Supplies are being airlifted by helicopters and then carried by hundreds of soldiers walking for hours to the affected areas, Reuters news agency reported. 

People caught up in the devastation have reportedly begged to be evacuated from the area. 

"Please take us out from here," Mary Grace Estela pleaded to helicopter pilots, according to Reuters. 

"The food is not enough here. We have no homes to return to, we have no livelihood".

International help 

Fourteen US military personnel had been sent to the area to see what assistance they could offer survivors. Washington has offered to send troops and at least one helicopter. 

Australia, the EU, Japan, New Zealand and UN agencies were also among the first to respond with aid. 

Mrs Soliman says Manila has so far received 29 million pesos ($518,000) worth of relief supplies, according to Reuters. 

The Red Cross says about 800,000 people need help, and aid agencies have launched an appeal for more than $2m for aid relief. 

British charity Oxfam says it has supplies for about two weeks, and warns there is a danger of a disease outbreak unless safe water supplies are installed in the next few days. 

Legal and illegal logging has been blamed for worsening the impact of the storms. 

On Saturday, Philippines President Gloria Arroyo suspended logging and vowed punishment for law-breakers.

05/12/2004

Bron : BBC News

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