Ban Ki-moon visits storm-ravaged Philippine city

JIM GOMEZ Associated Press Published:

TACLOBAN, Philippines (AP) -- U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was welcomed Saturday with Christmas songs sung by children who lost their homes as he toured a central Philippine city devastated by a super typhoon that killed more than 6,100 people last month.

Ban flew to Tacloban on central Leyte island after meeting President Benigno Aquino III and other officials in Manila to discuss recovery efforts.

Typhoon Haiyan slammed ashore Nov. 8 as one of the strongest storms on record with fierce winds and tsunami-like storm surges that flattened entire towns. More than 1,700 people are still listed as missing and more than 4 million others have lost their homes.

Ban, wearing a dark blue cap, a khaki shirt and rubber shoes, visited a school where dozens of children waiting for him sang "Jingle Bells" inside a white U.N.-donated tent, where he joined them in clapping and swaying to the music.

"Please hold on. Don't despair. We have come to help you," he told the children.

More than 200 heavily-armed police provided security from the airport to the school. Ban's flight was delayed because of poor visibility and overcast skies.

Along the road, the U.N. chief passed by scenes of devastation -- fallen trees, upturned vehicles, shattered houses and mounds of debris. Tent encampments have replaced houses that were swept away by the storm surge.

Ban stopped briefly to inspect a temporary model house made of wood.

His visit follows a U.N. appeal early this week for $791 million for critical food assistance, clean water and shelter for typhoon victims.

A U.N. statement said about 30 percent, or $237 million, has already been raised.

Aquino earlier this week appealed for international aid, saying that the devastation caused $12.9 billion in damage.