x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

World Bank offers Philippines US$500m loan for Typhoon Haiyan rebuilding

Authorities estimate more than 3,900 people died when Typhoon Haiyan made landfall and the sea surged ashore.

ORMOC, Philippines // Philippine engineers have salvaged generators from a flooded IT park to bring light back to some streets of typhoon-devastated Leyte province, the energy ministry said yesterday, as the World Bank offered a US$500 million loan for rebuilding.

Night falls early in the tropical Philippines, one of the biggest challenges in ensuring security on the worst-hit island of Leyte, where an estimated 70 to 80 per cent of structures in the path of the November 8 storm were reduced to matchwood and rubble.

Authorities estimate more than 3,900 people were killed when Typhoon Haiyan, one of the largest ever recorded, made landfall and the sea surged ashore. Dazed survivors desperate for food and water have looted shops and homes.

Philippine authorities, the US military and international agencies face a mounting humanitarian crisis, with the number of people displaced the catastrophe estimated at 4 million, up from 900,000 late last week.

The World Bank said yesterday it would extend a US$500m (Dh1.83 billion) emergency loan to support reconstruction of buildings that can withstand winds of 250 kph to 280 kph and resist severe flooding.

China also said it was ready to rush an emergency medical team to the Philippines to help survivors and was just waiting for approval from Manila.

China’s response to the disaster has been slow and, some would say, less than generous. The world’s second-largest economy initially announced it was giving $200,000 and then raised that by $1.64m. On Sunday, it said it was ready to send rescue and medical teams.

In Palo, just south of worst-hit Tacloban city, government engineers had at least patched up three diesel-powered generators from companies in an IT park to power street lights and the town hall, energy secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said.

“We will try to energise the first three to four kilometres of street lights and the municipal hall of Palo,” Mr Petilla said.

He said full power should be restored by Christmas.

“We are borrowing these generation sets to power street lights so that there will be signs of hope here. Because if there is no power, then residents feel there really is no hope.”

Ormoc, on the west of Leyte, was spared the storm surge. The city’s streets have since become clogged with thousands of people from surrounding districts, who form queues that wrap around city blocks outside pharmacies, pawn shops, petrol stations and generator-powered ATMs.

“People are anxious,” said Judith Daffon, 38, outside a bank. “We need money for food. Relief isn’t frequent. It’s only in Ormoc that stores are open.”

At the port, hundreds huddled under the sun for a chance to get on a ferry leaving the island. In one queue, people lined up for the entire day to take a number, which then entitles them to join another queue for a ticket.

The Philippine government imposed further rationing of fuel in areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan, with aid bottlenecks remaining

even as supplies started to reach more remote areas.

Authorities are limiting fuel sales to $11.46 per purchase, department of energy director Zenaida Monsada said in Manila. Eighty-three of 128 fuel stations in the area are now operational, she said. “We’re asking the oil companies to rush delivery and flood the market with supply.”

President Benigno Aquino has remained in the region as pressure mounts over the slow unlocking of food, water and medical aid to survivors more than a week after the storm hit. The government and military are grappling with airport gridlock and damaged roads, with large swathes of territory suffering power failures plus a lack of running water.

“We’re still facing coordination problems and bottlenecks,” Bernard Kerblat, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representative in the Philippines, said. “The situation we’re facing in the Philippines is unprecedented in magnitude.”

The typhoon was one of the deadliest in Philippine history. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in its latest bulletin put the death toll at 3,976, with 18,175 people injured and 1,598 missing.

The Philippines is “trying to improve all the processes” when it comes to natural disasters, Mr Aquino said in Alangalang, Leyte, according to a transcript from his office. “We want to be able to respond faster, more efficiently and more completely.”

Paul Lobrigo, 45, said power is still off at his home in the town of Dagami, about 30 kilometres from Tacloban city in Leyte province, the biggest city in the storm- damaged region with a population of more than 220,000. “Fortunately we had moonlight at night, just good timing,” he said in Cebu, the major staging point for relief to the area. “After that, it will be all dark.”

Bloomberg News with additional reporting by Reuters