Norway boosts aid to the Philippines

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The Norwegian government doubled its direct emergency aid to the Philippines on Wednesday, as details of its heartbreaking typhoon catastrophe continued to emerge. The foreign ministry announced another NOK 20 million in addition to an extra NOK 25 million granted to the United Nations’ relief program.

That brings Norway’s official aid up to NOK 65 million (more than USD 10 million) and Norwegians have been donating actively as well to humanitarian organizations. The Norwegian Red Cross reported “overwhelming” donations, after NOK 4 million poured in during the first 24 hours of fund-raising, and that amount had tripled by Monday night.

‘Very grateful’
“We are very grateful and humbled that so many people are giving so much to the Philippines,” Astrid Arnslett of the Norwegian Red Cross told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Tuesday. Philip Crabtree, spokesman for Redd Barna (Save the Children), was impressed as well after more than NOK 500,000 flowed just into an SMS account where people could send small automatic donations of NOK 200 (around USD 30).

“It’s wonderful to see that when something happens elsewhere in the world and folks are in such agony as they are in the Philippines right now, that people open their wallets,” Arnslett added.

The challenge remains getting all the aid to where it’s needed most. NRK’s correspondent arrived in Cebu before relief workers did and described a horror scene where authorities seemed to lack any control. Things worsened on Wednesday, with reports of widespread plundering and desperate people storming a food warehouse. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes and everything they owned, and one local mayor reportedly was telling his own residents to simply flee.

Shipoweners’ aid effort
One Norwegian sea captain was leading a Norwegian delegation that was using a locally chartered ship, the TS Kapitan Felix Oca, to bring emergency supplies from Manila to Tacloban this week. The vessel’s chartering fee is being paid by the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, whose members have employed Filipino crews on board their own vessels for years.

“The affected areas haven’t received help because all the infrastructure is destroyed,” skipper Jøran Nøstvik told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). “The catastrophe is much greater than anyone can realize. We’re working hard to bring some help.”

Nøstvik is a former skipper with the Norwegian Coastal Administration (Kystverket) in Northern Norway who has worked for the past eight years as a captain of offshore vessels. DN reported that he knows the waters around the Philippines well, and led cadet training at the shipowners’ association’s maritime training school this summer.

The vessel was being loaded with 50 tons of medical equipment and more than 7,000 so-called “family packages” containing rice, sardines, clean water and clothing.

Onboard the vessel were also 15 aid workers and a team from a local utility agency that hoped to help restore electricity and communications. After offloading supplies in Tacloban Nøstvik said the vessel, which was chartered in for 12 days, would pick up more supplies and head for other areas.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund