International development minister tours typhoon ravaged Philippines

OTTAWA – Canada’s minister for international development is getting a first-hand look at the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan.

Christian Paradis has arrived in the Philippines and will travel to some of the hardest-hit areas of the country, including Tacloban, Ormoc and Roxas City, where Canadian relief efforts have been concentrated.

More than 5,000 people were killed and four million made homeless by the super-storm, which rolled over the island nation on Nov. 8.

Senior Canadian officials, at a briefing in Ottawa, said the military’s disaster assistance response team had expanded its operations to the outlying areas of Panay Island, where Roxas City is located.

Members of the team were operating in the community of Sara, in the northeastern portion of the island during the weekend.

Col. Steve Kelsey, of the joint operations command, said the community of 45,000 was badly hit by the typhoon and Canadian officials have established a forward operating base there to co-ordinate further relief.

“This not only allowed our DART personnel to get into remote locations, but also to help aid agencies deliver relief, such as food and water to some of the more isolated communities,” said Kelsey.

They are also keeping an eye on oil spill in nearby Estancia, where approximately 600,000 litres spilled from a power barge, inundating the shoreline. The Philippine coast guard has sent a ship to the area for containment and recovery of the spill.

The DART commander on the ground, Lt.-Col. Walter Taylor, said he doesn’t expect to ask for additional resources from Canada. The team is co-operating with the Royal Navy, which has also deployed to the area.

“At this time, the assessment is that the resources we have in the Philippines are sufficient,” he said via teleconference.

The team includes engineering units that have been clearing away debris, medical staff and water purification units which have pumped out 55,000 litres of clean water.

Officials say Paradis, while in the Philippines, will meet with international humanitarian partners, which will be co-ordinating the reconstruction efforts.

Taylor was not able to say how long DART will remain on the scene, but suggested that many affected communities near the main roadways are moving from the relief toward the reconstruction phase of the disaster.

The outlying regions, where the team is now operating, are still in relief mode and need assistance, he said.

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