'Pablo' toll at 647; UN starts aid drive
MANILA, Philippines - The United Nations (UN) is set to launch a global appeal Monday, December 10, for aid for the victims of typhoon Pablo (Bopha), as the death toll continues to rise nearly a week after the typhoon.
A total of 780 people are still missing in the aftermath of the disaster, as the death toll goes up to 647, based on information from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
The figure includes about 150 missing fishermen from General Santos CIty, the country's tuna capital, who had put to sea ahead of Pablo's landfall.
NDRRMC Executive Director Benito Ramos has said many of those missing could be among the hundreds of unidentified bodies, many of them bloated beyond recognition.
The NDRRMC said more than 5.41 million people across 9 regions have been affected by the typhoon, with more than 300,000 given government assistance.
A total of 133,892 people are being housed in evacuation centers, the agency said.
Damage to agriculture, infrastructure, and private property is now estimated to be P7.12 billion.
Out of this, P3.48 billion is estimated for infrastructure alone, and P3.62 billion for agriculture.
The report still does not cover damage to banana and coconut crops, the NDRRMC said.
Pablo struck Mindanao on Tuesday, December 5, leaving a path of destruction across numerous provinces in the island, particularly in Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, and Surigao del Sur.
The typhoon made its way through Mindanao and Visayas last week, and dissipated only as it approaced northern Luzon on Sunday, December 9.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator Luiza Carvalho will outline plans for an immediate aid package as well as long-term support for the areas hardest hit by Pablo, UN spokeswoman Imogen Wall said.
"Five million people were affected and they need express assistance," Wall, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told AFP.
"Their priority needs are food, water and shelter but there's also a big emphasis on helping people's livelihood," she said.
"So many farmers have lost their crops and it's such a poor area. People need to earn money immediately and agriculture has to be rehabilitated," she added.
She declined to give an estimate of the needs of the hard-hit region, the center of both the country's banana as well as gold mining industries.
But she said a number of villages were still completely cut off and not receiving any aid, a week after the typhoon struck.
The region would need sustained assistance for at least six months, she added.
Carvalho is due to outline the aid plans at 330 pm local time (0730 GMT) in Davao City.
Japan, US help
The UN aid drive follows the announcments of Japan and the United States that they will extend aid to the disaster-stricken area.
US Ambassador Harry Thomas told Rappler on Sunday December 9, that the US government, through USAID, will increase its assistance to flood victims in Mindanao, as well as to help out in search, rescue and recovery operations.
"The United States Government will bring additional relief to flood victims in Mindanao. Our marines and USAID personnel arrived in Davao today," Thomas also said via Twitter on Sunday.
On the other hand, Japan, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), also announced its emergency assistance of P22 million to typhoon Pablo victims.
"In light of friendly relations between Japan and the Philippines and as both countries being disaster-prone nations, the government of Japan has made the decision to extend emergency assistance for humanitarian aid for those affected," it said in a statement.
Japan's assistance will be in the form of relief items such as tents, canned goods, sleeping pads, and plastic sheets. - Rappler.com, with reports from the Agence France-Presse