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Aid Groups Struggle To Meet Needs After Typhoon In Philippines


From Manila in the north, now to Cebu in the hard-hit central Philippines. We're going to hear about the aid situation there. Earlier we reached Aaron Aspi. He's with World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, and Aspi described mass devastation, especially in the northernmost part of the island.

AARON ASPI: Ninety percent of the structures have been damaged and whole communities are obliterated by storm surges with giant waves as high as seven meters.

SIEGEL: How would you describe the immediate plans of World Vision? That is, what is it that you're trying to accomplish right now and what are the challenges you face?

ASPI: Yes. World Vision has launched a massive relief effort. Right now we already have 5,000 blankets and 3,000 plastic sheets ready to be delivered in the hardest-hit areas for the needs of the families. We will also be providing much needed food, water, hygiene kits. So right now, the most pressing challenge for us is really established clear and safe access to roads that would bring truckloads of supplies to those who are most in need.

SIEGEL: And are the roads, in fact, intact? Were bridges away? Are you able to actually move these relief supplies to people?

ASPI: Yes. Right now, it's really very difficult to find a safe route because most of the roads are still damaged and some of the roads are still impassable because they still have floodwaters. So government is really working hard with road-clearing operations and at the same time, they're also still looking for those who are still missing.

SIEGEL: Mr. Aspi, I wonder if you can tell us, when we hear of winds of about 150 miles per hours and that over 90 percent of structures have been damaged by them, typically, what is a house - what does a family typically live in? What sort of structure in this part of the Philippines, and how much of a chance do structures of that kind have of surviving such heavy winds?

ASPI: Yes. Most of the houses in the rural areas are made from local materials, but can easily be blown away by strong winds and fierce rains. But even the most sturdy structures in the cities and urban communities really didn't have a chance.

SIEGEL: So you're saying not just small family homes, but even larger, more substantial structures in the path of the typhoon were also blown away.

ASPI: Yeah, in fact, the airport's now a wreck and only the runway was left and there's just a big coliseum that serves as an evacuation center, but unfortunately the people would've thought that this is the safest place to stay in, but this place also collapsed with them under the rubble.

SIEGEL: Aaron Aspi, thank you very much for talking with us. And take care.

ASPI: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Mr. Aspi is with World Vision. That's a Christian humanitarian organization and he spoke with us from Cebu in the Philippines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.