Vietnamese suffering thirst, hunger in typhoon-hit Philippines

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Many signs like this one calling for help have been put up in Leyte, Philippines. Photo by Jeff Canoy/ABS-CBN News

A pleading call to the Thanh Nien News hotline from a Vietnamese man in the Philippines Monday begged for urgent food and water aid as the devastated city of Tacloban grows more desperate and chaotic in the wake of super typhoon Haiyan.

Nguyen Van An, 33, said all the Vietnamese adults and children in Tacloban, Leyte Province, had managed to stay alive during the typhoon, but they'd lost everything else.

"The Vietnamese here are living in very poor conditions with no food or water," he said.

Collapsed roads littered with dead bodies have hindered the delivery of aid in Tacloban and there have been reports of looting and robberies as people fight for necessities.

An said the Vietnamese community had banded together at the back of a supermarket, six kilometers from the Tacloban airport.

Most of their houses are in ruins while others had their roofs blown away. They are now trying to hang canvases for shelter, he said.

Two men, Nguyen Duc Duy, 29, and his 24-year-old brother in law, Phat, were slashed by flying iron roofs during the storm, which was the strongest ever to hit the archipelago, leaving around 10,000 dead before heading to northern Vietnam Sunday.

An said Duy had intended to take refuge in his own home, but when floods quickly rose to around four meters, he and Phat had to smash through his iron roof to flee in a narrow escape.

The caller said he had called for help from his friends living in Cebu Province around 130 kilometers away, and Ormoc which is another hard-hit city in Leyte.

"But I don't know what would happen," he said. Northern Cebu was damaged as much as Leyte by the storm.

"What I fear most is any food will be stolen even before they arrive as it's very chaotic here. And dead bodies are everywhere."

An said most Vietnamese he knew had also lost their personal documents. "So after food and water, we really need the Vietnam embassy to help with our personal papers and to help us get back to Vietnam."

He said he has lost contact with three Vietnamese friends living in other areas in Samar Province, which is 145 kilometers north of Leyte, and some 50 Vietnamese he knew in Biliran Province, 18.6 kilometers north of Leyte.

An said he spoke on the phone with his friend Nguyen Tan Hoang in Guiuan City, Samar, before the typhoon arrived, but he had not been able call Hoang or other friends in Biliran since.

"I hope the embassy can help look for their whereabouts."

Vietnam's embassy in the Philippines said around 1,000 Vietnamese are living in the Philippines and it has not been informed of any Vietnamese casualties from the typhoon.

It said Vietnamese victims can contact its hotline +00639982756666 for guidance and support in emergency cases.

Vietnam, which has reported 14 deaths as the weakened typhoon swept through its northern provinces, has joined the global response to provide US$100,000 in aid to the Philippines.

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