Philippine typhoon: Aquino criticises local officials

President Aquino: "The system has to rely on the local government in place"

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has criticised authorities in some areas for not being fully prepared for the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan.

During a visit to the coastal town of Guiuan, he praised local officials for carrying out a proper evacuation, but said it was in contrast to other towns.

Mr Aquino has been criticised for his own government's response.

Meanwhile survivors have attended church services for victims of Hayan, which killed at least 3,974 people.

A further 1,186 are missing, according to the latest official count.

In many places, including the mostly flattened city of Tacloban in Leyte province, Masses were held in half-destroyed and flooded churches.

Start Quote

I remain concerned about the health and well-being of the millions of men, women and children who are still in desperate need”

End Quote Valerie Amos UN humanitarian chief

The international aid effort is starting to have a major impact, with Britain's HMS Daring warship joining the huge relief operation.

The typhoon - which had some of the strongest winds ever recorded on land - also left about 500,000 people homeless.

Guiuan, in Samar province, was the first town hit by the typhoon as it came ashore on 8 November. Mr Aquino said the evacuation ordered by the mayor had limited deaths there to fewer than 100.

But he suggested officials in other places had not been so well prepared.

"I just tell myself to keep it together", says Tecson Lim who is co-ordinating much of Tacloban's rebuilding

"As your president, I am not allowed to get angry even if I am already upset," he told reporters. He said that he would have to "stomach" his anger.

He also urged people to show patience. "Our main problem now is feeding 1.4 million people every day. But the government has the resources and we're moving faster."

At the scene

At Sunday Mass the driving rain is pouring through the shattered roof of Santo Nino church in the centre of Tacloban.

Many of the congregation sit on pews, huddled under umbrellas as Father Isagni Petilios tells them they have been strong and brave in the face of tragedy.

But outside it remains an apocalyptic scene. Most of the homes here have been destroyed. But for the first time, it seems, there are signs that people are beginning to take on the enormous task of rebuilding.

For most it starts with pulling lengths of timber and twisted roofing sheets from the piles of wreckage - to recycle into rough shelters.

But even as they do so, there is still other grim work to be completed. We watched as truck after truck of corpses were delivered to a cemetery on the outskirts of town.

More than 1,000 bodies are carefully laid out in two parallel trenches. Most of the victims go to this mass grave unidentified.

Mr Aquino also visited Tacloban, and said the government would provide everything people needed.

Earlier Philippine Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman acknowledged that the national relief response had been slow.

"We will double our efforts to distribute relief goods because we've been hearing complaints," she said.

'Faith strengthened'

On Sunday, thousands attended church services across the mainly Roman Catholic country.

Many came to give thanks for surviving the storm, while others prayed for their loved ones that died.

"I wish to thank the Lord. We asked for his help for all the people who survived this typhoon to be able to eat and continue a life that is hopefully more blissful," Belen Curila told AFP news agency at a service in Guiuan.

In Tacloban, Father Amadero Alvero led a service for some 500 people in the half-destroyed and flooded Santo Nino church.

"Despite what happened, we still believe in God," he said.

As the morning Masses were held, the international relief effort continued to build.

US helicopters have been dropping food, water and other supplies from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

The navy helicopters have been mobbed by hungry villagers, as they deliver desperately needed aid to remote areas.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino visits the navy port where some relief supplies arrive by boat in Tacloban, 17 November President Aquino (centre) has been criticised over his government's response
Typhoon survivors in Tacloban. Photo: 17 November 2013 Typhoon Haiyan was one of the most powerful typhoons ever to hit land
Priest Art Cablao stands next to rubble of the 400-year-old Immaculate conception church destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan, 17 November Some Sunday services were held in destroyed churches, like this one in Guiuan
A devotee cries during Sunday Mass at Santo Nino Church in Tacloban. Photo: 17 November 2013 Many of those attending prayers are now homeless

However the United Nations said people were still going hungry in mountainous regions.

"I remain concerned about the health and well-being of the millions of men, women and children who are still in desperate need," UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said in a statement.

UK effort

Britain's HMS Daring - which is now is off the coast of Cebu City - is the latest vessel to join the relief effort.

Its crew is now preparing to despatch aid to the Panay Island, in the far west of Cebu.

Another British ship - the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious - is on its way to the Philippines.

On Saturday Britain has announced it will give an extra £30m ($50m) in emergency aid, bringing UK assistance to £50m. The DEC said donations it had collected from the public had reached £33m.

About 11 million people have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan, according to UN estimates.

It was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded on land, with winds exceeding 320km/h (200 mph) unleashing massive waves.

Health experts have warned that the worst-affected areas are entering a peak danger period for the spread of infectious diseases.

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