As you now all know, I listen to Radio 4 news on the way to work (and on the way home. Or eating breakfast. Lunch. Tea. Dinner. Middle of the night – world service). So I’m abreast of current affairs. Most notably, the recent Typhoon Haiyan which has wreaked devastation across Tacloban and a large swathe of the Philippines. Given the magnitude of the catastrophe I felt compelled to inform myself further on the event. Perhaps this is vicariously feeding off someone else’s misery, perhaps it is intrusive upon the grief and despair of others. But, yesterday, I watched TV news coverage of the disaster. The content of the news reports was already known to me. But the pictures have managed to scorch a vision of a post apocalypitc hell into my mind. I often find that language – as via radio – equals TV in it’s capacity to convey the context/environment/essence of any report or issue. This is one event where the immediacy of the pictures can have no equal.
Apart from being staggered by the scale of the destruction and the harrowing pictures of bewildered survivors digging graves for their less fortunate loved ones, scavenging for food, picking through the wreckage, searching for parents, children, siblings, I witnessed the apparent disarray within the aid agencies, unprepared for an emergency of such unprecedented dimensions. And, indeed, where should they start? There are no buildings in the area wherein survivors may find refuge. There is no passable road structure through which to bring aid to starving people. There is little in the way of air transportation, given the destruction of the airport. I listened to an aid worker today, tellling of her first impressions after having arrived in Tacloban – she was aghast at what she was witnessing, overwhelmed by the level of need and very ambivalent about what shape support could take at this stage.
I have, however, been appalled that starving communities, having nothing but their lives to call their own, have been accused of ‘looting’ food from places which, just last weekend, were shops/supermarkets/storerooms. They are no longer such establishments. There is no longer an operational infrastructure and there are no workplaces in the areas from which this food has been retrieved. There are no shop assistants, no office work, no ‘blue collar’ work no possible means by which survivors can now get paid/money to swap for the bare essentials of life. There are only starving people. Who are surely to be allowed to keep together what body and soul they have left?