Friday, November 22, 2013

China hospital ship heads for typhoon-hit Philippines




China hospital ship heads for typhoon-hit Philippines


Agence France-Presse
3:27 pm | Thursday, November 21st, 2013
Members of the medical crew stand at the inpatient room inside their Chinese Navy hospital ship Peace Ark before its departure from a navy base in Zhoushan, east of Shanghai, China, on a relief mission to the Philippines, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by Typhoon Haiyan, which tore across several islands in the eastern Philippines on Nov. 8. AP
ZHOUSHAN, China—A Chinese hospital ship set sail for the typhoon-ravaged Philippines Thursday, with foreign media given unprecedented access to a navy base as Beijing seeks to promote its aid effort nearly two weeks after the disaster.


The Peace Ark, a 300-bed floating navy medical facility, sounded its horn as it set off from a People’s Liberation Army base on Zhoushan island, off the eastern province of Zhejiang.
It is expected to take three or four days to reach the Philippines, which is embroiled in a territorial row with China.

“With our efforts, we will make great contributions to the relationship between the Chinese people and the Philippine people,” Shen Hao, deputy chief of staff of the East China Sea Fleet and commander of the mission, told reporters allowed on board the vessel before it left.

“We will do our utmost to make contributions to the Philippine side.”

The deployment of the ship, which was featured on the front page of China’s state-run Global Times newspaper on Thursday, comes as the world’s second-largest economy seeks to counter international criticism of its relief effort.

After an initial outlay of only $100,000, the Chinese government has gradually upped its aid over the past two weeks, contributing $1.6 million worth of tents, blankets and other supplies.

Other Chinese organisations are also contributing, and a first crew of relief workers left on Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry said, with more following in the next few days.

By contrast, Japan has contributed $30 million to the Philippines, and the US has donated $20 million. Even the Swedish furniture group Ikea’s charitable foundation surpassed China’s initial outlay with a $2.7 million contribution to the UN children’s agency UNICEF.

There is no sign outside the base announcing its identity, and officials said it was the first time foreign journalists had been allowed inside.

Rows of uniformed navy officers and sailors lined the quayside alongside the white hospital ship, which was flanked by naval warships in dock.

Medical personnel in blue camouflage uniforms waved from the Peace Ark’s deck as it pulled away from port.

One sailor’s wife clutched a Chinese flag and said: “I’m proud of my husband. It’s OK for the ship to go to the Philippines despite the state of relations.”

Shen said the ship had just returned from another humanitarian mission in October, and commanders had cut short a one-month maintenance period to send it to the disaster zone.

China was also ready to dispatch medical teams or set up a field hospital, he added.
The Peace Ark will initially be stationed in Samar province, but how long it remains in the Philippines will depend on the situation, officials said.

Sun Tao, head of the ship’s hospital, said it had more than 100 doctors and nurses on board, and can handle eight surgeries simultaneously.

Doctors expect to handle disease caused by unsanitary conditions and paediatric cases, he added.
The ship is often featured in Chinese media and is a key instrument of “soft power” for Beijing, which regularly sends it to Asian and African ports to offer free operations.


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UN launches $300-M appeal as warships head to PH


Agence France-Presse
9:11 pm | Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Tacloban city, devastated by powerful Typhoon Haiyan, is seen in Leyte province, central Philippines Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. The central Philippine city of Tacloban was in ruins Saturday, a day after being ravaged by one of the strongest typhoons on record, as horrified residents spoke of storm surges as high as trees and authorities said they were expecting a “very high number of fatalities.” AP
TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines—The UN launched an appeal for a third of a billion dollars on Tuesday as US and British warships steamed towards the typhoon-ravaged Philippines where well more than 10,000 people are feared dead.

Four days after Super Typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) destroyed entire coastal communities with record winds and tsunami-like waves, the magnitude of the disaster continued to build with almost unimaginable horror.

Festering bodies still littered the streets in many areas, with the smell of rotting flesh hanging in the air and ramping up the fear of disease in the tropical heat.

Increasingly desperate survivors begged for help that was having difficulty reaching them — many still without access to food and water after nights spent in the open.
“We are certainly expecting the worst. As we get more and more access we find the tragedy of more and more people killed in this typhoon,” UN humanitarian operations director John Ging said, after Philippine President Benigno Aquino declared a “state of national calamity”.

The United Nations warned 10,000 people were feared dead in just one city, Tacloban, the provincial capital of Leyte province where five-metre (16-foot) waves flattened nearly everything in their path as they swept hundreds of metres inland.

Nearly 10 million people, or 10 percent of the Philippines’ population, have been affected, while 660,000 have lost their homes, the UN estimated as it launched a flash appeal for $301 million.
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told reporters in Manila the money was needed for “food, health, sanitation, shelter, debris removal and also protection of the most vulnerable”.

“I very much hope our donors will be generous.”

Amos praised the international community’s reaction since Haiyan slammed into the Philippines on Friday, but said much more needed to be done in a disaster of almost biblical proportions.
“We have already seen an international and generous response given the horrific pictures that people have seen, particularly on their television screens,” she said.

Overwhelmed and under-resourced rescue workers have been unable to provide desperately needed food, water, medicines, shelter and other relief supplies to many survivors, and desperation has been building across the disaster zones.

“There is nothing here left for us. Our house is gone, we don’t have any money, we don’t have our documents, passports, school records,” Carol Mampas, 48, told AFP at Tacloban’s destroyed airport as she cradled her feverish baby son in a blanket.

“Please, please, tell authorities to help us. Where is the food, where is the water? Where are the military collecting the dead?”

Bodies still litter the wreckage, while security concerns are growing as gangs take advantage of a security vacuum to loot homes and businesses.

The government announced a night-time curfew for Tacloban and deployed special forces across the ruined city to try to prevent pillaging.

Downpours worsen desperation
 
Heavy rain overnight in Tacloban compounded survivors’ desperation, while a tropical storm to the south threatened other typhoon-hit islands where hundreds of other people were also killed.

An international relief effort has begun to build momentum, with the United States and Britain announcing they were sending warships carrying thousands of sailors to the Philippines.

The aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which has 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft aboard, headed from Hong Kong to the United States’ close Asian ally on Tuesday.


Five other US warships are also being deployed, and the carrier group is expected to reach the Philippines within two to three days, the Pentagon said. Dozens of US marines arrived in Tacloban on Monday as an advance team.

A British warship, currently in Singapore, would head “at full speed” to the Philippines, Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday.

Many other countries have pledged help with even China, which has been embroiled in a bitter territorial dispute with the Philippines, offering aid and sympathy.

The UN children’s fund UNICEF said a cargo plane carrying 60 tonnes of aid including shelters and medicine would arrive in the Philippines Tuesday, to be followed by deliveries of water purification and sanitation equipment.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR was also organising an airlift carrying aid including hygiene kits.
Aquino’s declaration late Monday of a state of calamity allowed the government to impose price controls and quickly release emergency funds.

“In the coming days, be assured: help will reach you faster and faster,” he said in a televised address.
“My appeal to you all is: remaining calm, praying, cooperating with, and assisting one another are the things that will help us to rise from this calamity.”
 
Coastal towns reduced to piles of wood
 
Haiyan’s sustained winds when it hit Samar island, where it first made landfall, reached 315 kilometres (195 miles) an hour, making it the strongest typhoon in the world this year and one of the most powerful ever recorded.

Aerial photos of Samar showed whole districts of coastal towns reduced to piles of splintered wood.
The official government death toll stands at 1,774, although authorities have admitted they have not come close to accurately assessing the number of bodies lying amid the rubble or swept out to sea.
The Philippines is hit with an average of 20 tropical storms or typhoons a year, as they emerge from the Pacific Ocean and sweep west.

However Haiyan’s record intensity has fuelled concerns that climate change is increasing the ferocity of storms.

Blaming global warming for Haiyan’s mega-strength, Philippines negotiator Naderev Sano pledged at UN climate talks in Warsaw on Monday to fast until progress was made on tackling the environmental crisis.
If the death toll of more than 10,000 is correct, Haiyan would be the deadliest natural disaster ever recorded in the country.

A weakened Haiyan hit Vietnam and China on Monday. At least seven people were reportedly killed in China.



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