Typhoon Haiyan: Australian emergency medical team heads for Philippines

A medical team leading Australia's humanitarian relief effort has been briefed about the aid situation in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

Two RAAF planes - a Globemaster and a Hercules - are flying from Darwin transporting aid and Australia's fast response medical team.

The Globemaster is packed with 25 tonnes of emergency and medical supplies to Tacloban City, one of the areas worst affected by the typhoon.

The Hercules is carrying 36 emergency and medical personnel - including doctors, nurses, support staff, logistics experts and a radiographer - from the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre on board.

The specialist team, made up of experts from around Australia, is expected to operate in the region for at least two weeks.

It will take a 60-bed field hospital to Tacloban.

"We are going in to a region that is still just reeling and recovering, so the response pace is very, very active," he said.

"We are likening it to an Aceh response".

One of the pilots, Lieutenant Dirk Taylor, has been briefed on the situation at Cebu's main airport.

"We are expecting a few delays just with the amount of traffic going into Cebu," he said.

Reports have emerged of long lines and a backlog of aid at the Mactan airport on Cebu.

The pilots of both planes intend to land at the busy airport later today.

Lieutenant Taylor says the air force intends to transport all the supplies onto the island and the Hercules with the medical team bound for Tacloban.

Latest estimates put the death toll in the area at more than 2,000.

The fast response medical team has spent the past two days gathering in Darwin and preparing for the mission.

Aid workers face challenges in the Philippines

The ABC correspondent in the Philippines, Stephen McDonell, says the evacuation of people from Tacloban will go on until the majority of the population is safely out.

"Military planes packed full [with aid] in one direction... return with people coming back in the other. They'll keep doing that till they can clear, well, I'd have to imagine the majority of the population out of Tacloban, because there's nothing there," he said.

"Imagine you've got an entire city and then you take away food, you take away electricity, you take away shelter - well it can't sustain itself for very long.

"And then there are all these communities beyond Tacloban. People are walking into Tacloban from much more isolated, devastated areas, hoping for some help. What they're finding it's the remnants of the city that used to be there.

"So really they've got to get a lot of people out of there, at least so they can start clearing the debris, and start building tent cities and the like and having just some sort of a semblance of a recovery. At the moment it's still a rescue operation, really."

McDonell says aid teams are headed for the most-devastated area.

"They're pretty short on water and food like everybody else. We'll attempt to get in there on one of these flights to give them a bit of assistance. Our bags are jammed full with food and water," he said.

He says reporters have been bumped from flights.

"They're prioritising the military and medics and it's pretty hard to argue with that," he said.

Mr McDonell says a military airport in Cebu has been established as the main staging point for international aid arriving in the region.

Military transports are taking food, medical supplies and soldiers into Tacloban, but aid workers are struggling to reach people in densely populated areas and are not able to reach people on smaller and more isolated islands that do not have air strips.

Special forces soldiers are accompanying aid and carting shipments to areas in need.

Two Communist insurgents who were allegedly attempting to intercept aid have been shot dead by soldiers.

Australian assistance pledged

to the Philippines and Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he is prepared to send more.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Saturday that she had approved the package of humanitarian assistance.

"This comprises the urgent deployment of an Australian medical assistance team - at a cost of about $1 million, $3 million to be deployed through Australian non-government organisations, $4 million to the United Nations flash appeal," she said.

"[We will also contribute] $1 million for additional food items and non-food items, which includes the funding already announced - so tarps, mosquito nets, water containers and the like, and $1 million to the Red Cross to assist in their disaster response efforts."

The Philippines' Ambassador to Canberra, Belen Anota, has thanked Australia for its assistance, saying his nation is "very grateful".

Article credit au.news.yahoo


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