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World

Victims of typhoon cut off from outside world

The inhabitants want to get out of the villages and towns devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. At the same time, helpers and relatives are trying to get into the disaster area, but many of the paths are blocked.

There is a small group of men and women standing in the check-in hall of Cebu airport, in the eastern Philippines. They are packed tightly together, leaning shoulder on shoulder. They have been spared by the typhoon, but they still stare into space, looking exhausted and despaired. Filipinos from all over the country have come to look for their families.

Among them is Meredith Dumdum, whose family lived in Tacloban, the city hit by the full force of the typhoon - including the district where the Dumdums lived. "The whole area has been washed away," she told DW. "And I have no idea how they're doing."

Cebu airport departures board. Copyright: DW/P. Hille

Flights to Tacloban are frequently cancelled because of bad weather

She has had just one phone call from her niece after the storm hit, but since then only silence. "And I'm waiting now for another phone call."

No contact

They keep trying to reach the family by telephone. Meredith is now putting her faith in flight 4268 to Tacloban.

She has managed to get a ticket for the airplane that is being used to transport aid workers to the neighboring island - flight time: 40 minutes. But no luck: the flight was cancelled due to bad weather. She now sits in the waiting room not knowing how she can help her family.

Her niece and her sister may be sitting inside the heavily damaged airport at Tacloban. Then they would at least be one step closer to safety, clean water, and some food.

Aid supplies on airfield at Cebu airport; Copyright: DW/P. Hille

Cebu has become the hub for aid operations

There is a shortage of all those things in Tacloban and many other cities torn to pieces by the storm. Many are cut off from the outside world because roads have been blocked by fallen trees, or have simply disappeared beneath landslides caused by the heavy rains.

Aid workers stuck

The aid organizations are making slow progress when it comes to these areas. Cebu is the main hub of their activities. Many aid workers arrive here, along with planeloads of supplies, hoping to get into the disaster areas. One of them is the Romanian Ionut-Lucain Homeag, from the European Commission's humanitarian aid program.

He has transported 33 tons of medical supplies and water-cleaning equipment, he explains. "And we are having difficulties bringing these things into the disaster area." A medical help center is desperately needed in Tacloban, as is a water treatment system. "But I can see we're going to have more logistical problems," said Homeag. "Tacloban airport's capacity is anything but ideal."

Runway stormed

Aid workers in Cebu airport. Copyright: DW/P. Hille

Stranded in the terminal at Cebu airport

Besides the damage to Tacloban airport itself, the road leading to it is also all but impassable. Homeag was also due to board flight 4268. The people in the disaster areas are also hoping for more planes because they are desperate to get out as quickly as possible.

Eyewitnesses have reported that hundreds of people stormed the runway at Tacloban airport on Tuesday (12.11.13) in the hope of getting on one of the few planes to Cebu. But so far the aid organizations have only been able to fly a few people out.

As the cancellation of flight 4268 is announced over the PA system, Homeag sits back down on the large bags of medicine belonging to his team. He is now hoping to get to Tacloban tomorrow. Only once he is there will he know what type of aid is needed the most.

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