International flights to the Philippines have resumed but the country remains in chaos, with tourists and visitors among the millions affected by the devastation
International travel to the Philippines is resuming after one of the most powerful storms on record swept across the country, leaving thousands dead and many without access to food, water and electricity.
Typhoon Haiyan, which made landfall on Friday, left a trail of destruction as winds of up to 235mph battered the central part of the country before moving north-west towards Vietnam and China, where it continues to cause havoc. The three main international airports – in Manila, the Visayas and Mindanao – have reopened after hundreds of flights were grounded as the eye of the storm entered Philippine territory. According to the Philippine Department of Tourism there are currently no updates of disruption for international travel flights to and from Manila.
The domestic airport at Tacloban, in the worst-hit eastern region, partially reopened today. However, damage to the terminal means it is unlikely that larger commercial flights will be able to use the airport for some time. Government agencies are warning against travel to some parts of the country and have advised tourists and visitors to remain vigilant, while the Foreign Office has asked for British nationals to let their families know they are safe, as disruption to communications looks set to continue for several more days.
Tourists and expats have been supporting aid workers as rescue organisations race to provide life-saving supplies to the hardest hit areas. The islands of Leyte, Samar and the northern part of Cebu experienced the worst of the storm.
Travel blogger Norm Schriever, who was staying on the popular tourist island of Boracay when the typhoon hit, has posted a list of missing tourists on his website and has been helping people communicate with their loved ones. Although damage to the island was minimal, communication is almost non-existent as electricity and internet have been badly affected.
“The beach hasn’t been damaged; boats are running, but it’s chaotic,” he says. “No one can get info or get in touch with their hotels they booked with. Airports are running but offline, so Kalibo and Caticlan airports are just crazy, from what I hear. ATMs are mostly down or have long lines, but all the big hotels have generators, and the island and the people are as beautiful and amazing as ever.”
Travel agencies and tour operators in the UK have been dealing with some cancellations and alterations, but the extent of the repercussions is not yet clear.
In a statement, the Association of British Travel Agents said: “The extent of the damage and the affected areas is still being assessed. Tourists in the region or those intending to visit should contact their tour operators, accommodation providers or local authorities if appropriate to get the latest information. ABTA is monitoring the situation closely and will provide updates on abta.com.”
Robin Ball, Director of Bamboo Travel, a tour operator that specialises in travel to east Asia, is also waiting to see what the full impact will be.
“We’ve got clients who are travelling to the Philippines in a few months’ time and are worried about the impact the typhoon could have on their trip,” he says. “But it’s too early to know what impact there’s been on the infrastructure.
“We have some clients who planned to be cruising round Halong Bay in Vietnam this week and the typhoon made landfall there today. We’ve had to make an alternative itinerary for them as all the Halong cruises were cancelled and we don’t know when the cruises will be operating again. We would hope they’ll be back up and running on Wednesday. There’s a lot of uncertainty. We offer tailor-made private tours but companies offering larger group tours to Vietnam may need to take more drastic action.”
Philippine Airlines, which last week launched the first direct flight from the UK to the Philippines in over 15 years, said: “PAL /PALex passengers with flights to typhoon-affected areas may rebook their flights within the next 30 days from the original flight date, with rebooking fees and fare difference waived.”
AirAsia Philippines is also offering passengers who had their flights cancelled the option to rebook or receive a full refund.
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