11/16/2013 08:22 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 18:58 EST

Philippines typhoon recovery finally getting more international aid

International aid continues to arrive in the Philippines as people try to recover from a devastating typhoon that has killed more than 3,600 people and left more than 600,000 others homeless.

Another Canadian military cargo plane left Canadain Forces Base Trenton in eastern Ontario Friday night with more soldiers and aid bound for the Philippines.

About 200 members of the Canadian military's Disaster Assistance Response Team will be in the Philippines, where 55 Canadians are among the almost 1,200 people still missing.

A team of 10 soldiers from Japan's Self-Defence Force arrived Friday with medical supplies in the typhoon-hit city of Tacloban in hardest-hit Leyte Province. They will travel around the Philippine city and provide medical treatment to typhoon victims.

Thousands of people have sought shelter inside Tacloban's Astrodome, while others have decided to flee the city.
UN officials say the immediate priority for humanitarian agencies over the next few days is to transport and distribute food, tarpaulins, tents, clean drinking water and basic sanitation services to survivors.

The CBC's David Common is travelling with DART in the central Philippines and says their priority is to provide medical treatment to survivors.

"We understand from members of Canada's military here that there is a lot of dysentry and a lot of other gastrointestinal concerns, and we are seeing Ciprofloxacin, a common antibiotic, put into aid packages, delivered by the Red Cross and World Vision and others.

The aid groups are hoping to keep the curb the spread of disease as people remain in crowded shelters.
The long-delayed aid is flowing more than a week after Typhoon Haiyan swept over the country with tsunami-like waves and powerful winds.

Residents of Tanauan, a fishing town about 15 kilometres southeast of Tacloban, said they only started receiving substantial aid on Friday.

Relief efforts are picking up, Common reported on Friday from the city of Cebu.

"By that I mean what we saw when we arrived at the Cebu airport today: A dozen or more cargo jets from Israel, the Netherlands, American military aircraft that were dropping off huge numbers of supplies, pallet loads," he said.

Common said it's clear that DART will be needed, particularly its helicopters, which arrive Sunday.

"The issue right now is that there's an awful lot of aid pouring into airports," he said. "It's just tricky to get it into the hands of those who actually need it. The devastation here is enormous. The issue, of course, is trying to reach everyone. That hasn't happened a week after the typhoon."

The team's commanding officer on the ground said the Canadian effort was based at the airport in the community of Iloilo, and Common reported some DART members had moved north to the city of Roxas.

The Canadian team includes medical personnel, but military officials say the initial work will fall to engineers who can open roads, repair basic infrastructure and provide clean drinking water.

There are 118 DART personnel on the ground, including 54 who arrived Friday. There are 70 more en route and more will be sent in the coming days and weeks, the Department of National Defence said.

U.S. helicopters dropping water and food

In another sign that relief efforts were picking up, U.S. navy helicopters were flying from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington off the coast, dropping water and food to isolated communities.

The U.S. military is sending about 1,000 more troops, along with additional ships and aircraft. By Friday, there were 400 U.S. Marines in the country to assist typhoon victims.

The Philippine government — perhaps inevitably — has come under some criticism for its inability to get supplies out quicker.

"In a situation like this, nothing is fast enough," Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said in the Leyte capital, Tacloban, most of which was destroyed by the storm. "The need is massive, the need is immediate, and you can't reach everyone."

Back in the town of Guiuan, some 155 kilometres east of Tacloban, there were other signs of life emerging from the debris. One man was selling skewers of meat, a couple of kiosks are open selling soda and soaps. Everywhere, freshly washed clothes lay in sun, drying.

While many have left this and other affected towns, some are choosing to stay and help.

Over 90 percent of the infrastructure in Ormoc was destroyed. The port city now lacks even wire poles, according to a spokesman for the city. Full resumption of power supply is not expected to be realized in five to six months.

However, some key facilities will get power back next month.

"We hope to be able to restore at least partial electrical power to certain potions of city by Dec. 9," said a city spokesman.

Guiuan was one of the first towns to be hit by the storm. It suffered massive damage, but casualty figures were lower than in Tacloban and some other towns because it was largely spared from storm surges.

In Tacloban, there were also some signs a battered population was beginning to get back on its feet — even as trucks carrying corpses drove through its streets on the way to a mass grave.

The ornate tiled floor of a still-standing church was covered in mud as sunlight poured in through holes in the wind-peeled ceilings. Inside, people prayed while others swept dirt from the pews.

Residents hauled debris into piles in the streets and set them on fire. Others were at work making frames for temporary homes.

In one neighbourhood, dozens of people crowded around a mobile generator, where countless cords snaked across the dirt and into power strips. Residents plugged in mobile phones, tablets and flashlights, hoping for a precious gulp of electricity, even though cell coverage remained spotty.

John Lajara was already thinking about replacing his old residence, which once had a pool table and a sea breeze. Now it's a trash heap.

"We can't wait so I am building my house again," he said. "Back to zero."

John Bumanig and his wife were cleaning out their second-hand clothes shop, which was swamped by storm surges. They were laying out ladies bras in the sun, though they weren't hopeful anyone would buy them. Most of the stock had to be thrown out.

They were determined to stay in Tacloban, but faced an uncertain future.

"We cannot do anything, but will find a way to overcome this," said his wife, Luisa, holding back tears. "We have to strive hard because we still have children to take care of."

In Guiuan, a team of volunteers from elsewhere in the Philippines was clearing rubble from the road to the airport so that relief goods could get in quicker. Its leader, Peter Degrido, was trying to move an overturned passenger bus with a truck and steel cables.

"It's devastating to see this. But people are slowly recovering," he said. "They've already moved most of the bodies."