Medical crisis, outages inflict further pain on Philippines

Nearly a week after Super Typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines is also bracing for an imminent medical crisis

Authorities are still struggling to pick up the pieces nearly a week after Typhoon Haiyan devastated parts of the Philippines, with long power outages expected in hard-hit areas and a medical crisis on the horizon.

Philippine Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said it may take six weeks before the first of the typhoon-battered towns get electric power restored.

Speaking at Cebu airport in the central Philippines on Wednesday night, Petilla said the storm had toppled many transmission lines and damaged power plants.

He said that in the severely damaged city of Tacloban, with a population of 200,000, order needed to be restored "because if there's no peace and order, it's hard to reinstall the power posts."

Petilla said army troops had fired shots Wednesday to drive away a group of armed men who approached a power transmission substation in Leyte province. The unidentified men fired back, then fled. No one was hurt.

Medical crisis

Thousands injured by the typhoon or sickened by its aftermath have few places to seek medical attention.

In Tanauan, about 15 miles south of Tacloban, at least 600 people have died and several hundred more are waiting for medicine and surgeries, Penelope Tecson, wife of the town's mayor, told The Associated Press. Volunteer doctors in the town hall, which has been converted into a makeshift hospital, were performing as many procedures as possible on Wednesday, including an emergency C-section, according to Al Jazeera correspondent Ted Regencia.

In Tacloban, a run-down, single-story building with filthy floors at the city’s ruined airport has become the area's main medical center. It has little medicine, virtually no facilities and very few doctors.

There, hundreds of injured people — pregnant women, children and the elderly — have poured into the makeshift clinic in a building behind the control tower since Haiyan ravaged the Philippines last Friday. Doctors said they expect to soon be treating more serious problems such as pneumonia, dehydration, diarrhea and infections.

Medical woes across the region are adding to the authorities' daunting tasks, which include dealing with looters and clearing the bottlenecks preventing thousands of tons of aid material from coming into the area.

Desperate residents have resorted to raiding for food. Mobs overran a rice warehouse in Leyte on Wednesday, collapsing a wall that killed eight people. Thousands of sacks of the grain were carted off.

Despite those incidents, police said the situation was improving.

"There has been looting for the last three days, but the situation has stabilized," said Carmelo Espina Valmoria, director of the Philippine National Police special action force.

"The priority has got to be, let's get the food in, let's get the water in,” U.N. humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos told reporters after touring Tacloban. “We got a lot more (coming) in today, but even that won't be enough. We really need to scale up operation on an ongoing basis."

While the cogs of a massive international aid effort are beginning to turn, they are not moving fast enough for the 600,000 people displaced, many of them homeless, hungry and thirsty.

Authorities said 2,357 people have been confirmed dead. That figure is expected to rise, perhaps significantly, when accurate information is collected from the entire disaster zone.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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