TACLOBAN, November 18, 2013 (AFP) – Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Monday blamed the slow response to the ravages of Typhoon Haiyan on the total collapse of local government in the face of the storm’s unprecedented destructive power.
“The systems failed,” Aquino acknowledged as he toured areas devastated by the super typhoon that smashed through the central Philippines on November 8, killing thousands and laying waste to entire towns and villages.
“We had a breakdown in power, a breakdown in communications… a breakdown in practically everything,” Aquino told reporters.
The president, who was criticized for the initial delay in getting relief to the worst-hit areas, argued that the local authorities had primary responsibility as first responders.
“But the destructive force of this typhoon was of such a magnitude that even those personnel… were themselves victims,” he said, noting that only 20 police officers in Tacloban – the affected region’s largest city – were able to report to work the day after the storm.
“So we have to admit, there was a breakdown in terms of government and there was a cascading effect,” said Aquino.
The lion’s share of the aid burden has been taken up by a massive global relief effort spearheaded by the United States, which deployed an aircraft carrier strike force to help distribute emergency supplies.
As of Monday the official death toll stood at 3,976 with 1,602 people missing. The United Nations estimates up to four million people have been displaced.