Portugal’s President, Cavaco Silva, and the Minister for State and Foreign Affairs, Rui Machete, have today (Monday, 11 November) extended their condolences to the people and the government of the Philippines, which has been torn to shreds by typhoon Haiyan.
Addressing the Philippine nation and his counterpart, Chief of State Benigno S. Aquino, Cavaco Silva said it is “with great consternation” that he has followed the “tragic consequences” caused by typhoon Haiyan in that country.
Informally signing off his message ‘Aníbal Cavaco Silva', the president went on: “At this time of great sadness I want to convey to Your Excellency, the Filipino people, and, especially, the families of the victims, in name of the Portuguese people and myself, our expression of deep concern and heartfelt solidarity.”
Minister Machete sent his message of sympathy from India, where he is on official business.
He expressed his condolences at the start of his intervention in a plenary session during a meeting of European and Asian heads of Foreign Affairs (ASEM), which is taking place this week in New Dehli, India.
Last Friday typhoon Haiyan, classified as a maximum category-five storm, ripped through the heart of the Philippines, leaving a mangled mess of chaos and destruction in its wake.
Haiyan has been described as one of the largest typhoons ever witnessed in the history of Southeast Asia and one of the strongest in the world.
Reaching gusts of up over 300 kilometres per hour it caused sea levels to rise and in places waves of over six metres washed entire towns away.
Deaths have been reported to sit anywhere between 1,500 to more than 10,000, and several hundreds of thousands of people have been left homeless.
Reports claim rescue workers believe up to two thirds of the dead could be children.
Some two thousand people are still missing and the Filipino government estimates around 9.5 million people have been affected by the super-storm, prompting them to declare it a national disaster.
Food and water are in dire shortage and large swathes of the country are without power.
In the City of Tacloban, Leyte province, where the typhoon unleashed the brunt of its devastation, up to eighty percent of buildings have been wiped out.
Two volunteers of the Portuguese International Medical Assistance (AMI) organisation made their way to the City of Tacloban on Monday (11 November), to carry out an “exploratory mission”, according to the head of the institution.
AMI president Fernando Nobre said: “In 35 years I have never heard so many contradicting figures. The number of deaths varies greatly, from 1,500 confirmed to more than 10,000”, he reported, describing a scenario of “great destruction.”
“The team is going to find out where it can be most useful. First it is going to see what accessibility and telecommunications are like, seeing as the airport only seems to be open to military planes, then it is going to check water and sanitation, then medicines, then food, then shelter, then protection”, Fernando Nobre elaborated.
The Portuguese volunteers were dispatched following an emergency meeting held by the non-governmental organisation in the early hours of Monday morning. It will also be holding collection campaigns to generate donations for its emergency funds.
More medics could be flown out later on to boost the team.
It is not the first time an AMI team has intervened in that part of the world; in 2009 a two-man team was also flown out to the Philippines after a series of typhoons affected 3.5 million people and killed 2,000.
After tearing through the Philippines, Haiyan crossed the South China Sea, heading towards Vietnam, where close to 900,000 people were evacuated to safe areas. It was downgraded to a lower-level hurricane before reaching Vietnam and later made landfall in south China’s Hainan province.