Tacloban mayor advises residents to flee

The New York Times reports: Typhoon relief gridlock threatened to paralyze rescue operations in the most devastated part of the Philippines on Wednesday, with aid piling up but few ways to distribute it, plentiful gasoline but no merchants willing to sell it, and an influx of emergency volunteers with no places to house them.

The intensifying frustrations of delivering aid five days after Typhoon Haiyan struck elicited a plea from the top United Nations relief official to the mayor of Tacloban, imploring him to help find a solution to persuade gasoline station owners to open so relief convoys could begin a large-scale expansion into the razed port city of 220,000 and the interior regions. The gasoline stations have fuel in their tanks but the owners fear robberies and violence if they reopen.

“We have to have fuel, so we have to have some kind of refueling center,” the relief official, Valerie Amos, told the mayor, Alfred S. Romualdez, after she flew here for an assessment in which she promised a vast relief effort. Mr. Romualdez told her that the city could not easily cope with the influx of aid workers, as practically no vehicles are available to bring them in from the airport, while food and drinking water are running out. “I’m asking those who come here, ‘Please be self-sufficient, because there’s nothing,’ ” he said.

The mayor’s best advice to residents was to flee to other cities and find shelter with relatives if they could, saying that the local authorities were struggling to provide enough food and water and faced difficulties in maintaining law and order.

The paralysis was epitomized by the first attempt in Tacloban to conduct a mass burial of Haiyan victims whose corpses had spent days putrefying on streets and under piles of debris. The attempt ended in failure as trucks carrying more than 200 corpses were forced to turn back as gunfire greeted them on the city limits. The identities of the shooters were not clear. [Continue reading…]

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