Big numbers but each an individual

13/11/2013

At least 10,000 people have died and many more have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines:

Four million people are thought to have been affected by the massive storm and 10,000 people are believed to have been killed in the city of Tacloban in the province of Leyte alone after huge waves swept away coastal villages on Friday.

A United Nations humanitarian official described the scale of damage in the Philippines caused by Haiyan as massive and unprecedented. John Ging said 660,000 people fled their homes because of the storm and the UN will appeal for significant international aid for victims.

Devastated communities without food, water and medicines are showing desperation after one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded flattened entire towns and left countless bodies scattered across wastelands.

People in Tacloban woke up to just what they didn’t need on Tuesday – driving rain. With provisions running low, everyone says that food is their main concern.

A BBC correspondent said he saw families straining filthy water through T-shirts to try and remove the dirt and there is a real risk of diseases like dysentery spreading quickly.  . . .

It is difficult to grasp the extent of the devastation, the lives lost, many more still at risk, homes destroyed, schools trashed, businesses ruined . . .

With numbers as big as these it is important to remember that each is an individual and that, just as we are seeing in Christchurch, the end of the storm won’t be the end of the problems.

Parliament began yesterday by offering messages of support to the victims.

Before question time in the House this afternoon, Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader David Cunliffe both offered their condolences following the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines this week.

“Images we are seeing out of the affected areas are deeply harrowing and I know that all New Zealanders will be moved by them,” Mr Key said.

New Zealand had learned firsthand from the Canterbury earthquakes no country has to face a destructive natural disaster alone, he said.

“The international community always stands ready to help.” . . .

Unfortunately one MP let politics get in the way of the condolences.

In contrast, Dr Norman used his time to read a speech from the head of the Philippines’ delegation to the UN climate talks in Warsaw, Poland.

His speech drew audible groans from the MPs and a number of negative tweets from politicians, including National MP Tau Henare and Labour MP Shane Jones.

After a point of order from co-leader Metiria Turei, Speaker David Carter said Mr Norman had the right to make a speech, “but it would be better if it was delivered without a political message”. . .

This was the wrong time and place for such a message.


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