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Disasters

Philippine typhoon survivors desperate, raid rice supplies

A warehouse wall collapse in the typhoon-struck Philippines has killed eight people as survivors took 129,000 bags of rice. Last Friday's super storm has left Filipinos increasingly hungry and many areas isolated.

Typhoon survivors increasingly desperate

Philippine officials said Wednesday a crowd of Filipino typhoon survivors overpowered police and soldiers guarding a rice warehouse on Tuesday. A wall collapsed, crushing and killing eight survivors.

National Food Authority spokesman Rex Estoperez said personnel guarding the warehouse at Alangalang town felt "they could not do anything without risking their safety." Each bag weighed 50 kilograms.

"There must have been so many people to carry away so many bags," Estperez said, urging those who took the rice to "please share with the people who need it."

'Everyone is panicking'

Seventeen kilometers away in Leyte province's city of Tacloban - devastated by Friday's massive winds and storm surge waves - a navy doctor told the news agency AFP that "everyone is panicking."

"They say there is no food, no water. They want to get out of here," she added, saying doctors had run out of medicines, including antibiotics, to treat survivors injured by debris during the storm.

Some survivors desperate for drinkable water dug up pipes in Tacloban.

"We need to boil it. But at least we have something, said Christopher Dorano, 38.

At Tacloban's airport, exhausted and famished survivors shoved each other to get on one of the few flights out of the city, where decaying bodies lie in many streets.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona admitted that Philippines was overwhelmed, telling the radio staion DZMM that authorities had run "out of body bags."

Plight of outlying islands unknown

The United Nations estimates that 11.3 million people are affected across the Philippines central islands of Leyte, Samar and Cebu swept by Typhoon Haiyan.

As an international relief effort built momentum, the International Red Cross spokesman for the Asia-Pacific region, Patrick Fuller said while the situation in Tacloban was "appalling" aid workers were "also very concerned about outlying islands."

Another spokesman told DW that the Red Cross was focusing on the typhoon-hit island of Samar.

Death toll debate

Philippine Red Cross secretary general Gwendolyn Pang said the death toll – put officially at 1,883 – was "probably" higher, because numbers were still coming in from "areas we cannot access."

On Tuesday, President Benigno Acquino had asserted that local officials on Leyte, who last Sunday spoke of 10,000 deaths, had overestimated the loss of lives.

"So far 2,000, about 2,500, is the number we are working on as far as deaths are concerned," Aquino told CNN. "Ten thousand, I think, is too much."

Aid effort mounting

The UN's World Health Organization (WHO) said teams from Belgium, Japan, Israel and Norway had arrived to set up field hospitals.

Médecin Sans Frontières' (MSF) coordinator Natasha Reyes said eight planeloads of aid were en route to the Philippines.

MSF was initially sending 100 personnel to Tacloban and "particularly the islands west of Cebu and Guiuan town, to the east – to provide urgent medical aid."

"The situation is catastrophic – it's total chaos," Reyes said, adding that "little information" was available because of downed communications.

A five-ship naval group led by the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, with 5,000 soldiers and 80 aircraft, in due later this week.

ipj/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)

DW.DE

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