Officials confirmed today that 75 Canadians thought to have been in the disaster zone when Typhoon Haiyan struck last week cannot be located by embassy staff in the Philippines capital, Manila.
At a Defence Department briefing for reporters it was revealed that relatives in Canada had requested help in contacting 185 people who could not be reached in the typhoon-impacted areas. Of that group, 110 have been located, but 75 are still unaccounted for, despite text messages and emails sent to them by embassy officials.
Most of the affected areas are without power.
Defence Department officials said the most pressing problem currently is the inability to get to the disaster-struck villages.
Col. Stephen Kelsey of the Canadian Joint Operations Command told reporters a military plane that left Wednesday night for the area carried a backhoe and loader on board . The equipment is on its way to the city of Roxas to begin clearing roads.
Thursday night a Polaris airbus left Canada carrying 70 people, including seven medical personnel. The rest on board will be deployed clearing roads.
As of Friday morning, Kelsey said, the military has 118 people on the ground in the Philippines, as well as 70 "in the air." More are coming, he said.
At 5 p.m. ET Friday a flight will depart from Trenton carrying a reverse osmosis water purification unit, part of DART, the Disaster Assistance Response Team.
Lt.-Col. Walter Taylor, DART commanding officer and commander of the joint task force, speaking by phone from the Philippines, said food and medical supplies are starting to build up and cannot be distributed quickly because of blocked roads.
He said that humanitarian groups have identified cholera and hepatitis A breakouts in some areas.
There has been no decision yet about whether Canada will send six helicopters to the region. Naval ships would take too long to arrive, officials said, but some inflatables will be sent to access remote islands hit by the typhoon.