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Natural Disasters

UN's Ban tells Philippine typhoon victims 'don't despair'

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has visited Tacloban in the Philippines, one of the cities worst hit by Typhoon Haiyan last month. The UN and the Philippines are seeking donations to fund reconstruction efforts.

Ban Ki-moon discussed rebuilding efforts with Philippine officials on Saturday as part of his three-day visit to the country. The South Korean UN chief toured the city of Tacloban on Leyte island, in the province worst hit by Typhoon Haiyan that killed more than 6,000 people in November.

"Please hold on. Don't despair. We have come to help you," Ban told a group of school children in a tent facility set up by the UN Childrens' Fund, UNICEF, in the aftermath of the typhoon. He handed out backpacks to almost 200 elementary-school age children present, who had greeted him by singing Christmas carols.

"The people of Tacloban are a very resilient people and are returning to their normal lives," Ban told reporters, saying he was "very impressed" with their early efforts to restore normalcy.

Tacloban is home to more than 200,000 people and was heavily damaged in the fierce storms. The UN delegation toured the city's coastal district of Fatima, at one point pausing to speak in front of the wreckage of a stranded ship that was hurled inland by rogue waves.

Aid appeals

Earlier on Saturday, Ban met with Philippine President Benigno Aquino in Manila to discuss the reconstruction and relief efforts.

"President Aquino thanked Mr. Ban for the United Nations' support for our relief and rehabilitation efforts," Aquino's spokeswoman Abigail Valte said on government radio. "The president also thanked Mr. Ban for the visit, for showing concern for our people."

The UN announced early this week, as part of its 2014 humanitarian aid appeal, that it would seek $790 million (578 million euros) to fund disaster relief in the Philippines. So far, one-third of that tally has been raised.

President Aquino also appealed for international assistance this week, estimating the costs of the damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan at $12.9 billion.

Almost 1,800 people are still missing in the wake of the typhoon, which injured more than 27,000.

msh/ph (AFP, AP, dpa)

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