Philippines storm survivors ‘desperate for aid’
Eight die after looters storm government-owned rice warehouse seeking food
A woman stands with her son surrounded by debris in Tacloban. The mayor of the typhoon-ravaged city urged residents today to flee to other cities and find shelter if they could. Photograpg: New York Times
There are increasing signs of desperation in the Philippine islands devastated by Typhoon Haiyan as looting turned deadly today as survivors panicked over delays in supplies of food, fresh water and medicine.
Eight people have been killed after thousands of Haiyan survivors stormed a government-owned rice warehouse seeking food supplies.
There are reports of some survivors digging up underground water pipes and smashing them open. Five days after one of the strongest storms ever recorded hit cities and towns in the central Philippines, anger and frustration boiled over as essential supplies dwindled.
Audio: Goal's James Kelly speaks from Cebu
Some survivors scrawled signs reading “Help us”. Controversy also emerged over the death toll.
President Benigno Aquino said local officials had overstated the loss of life, saying it was closer to 2,000 or 2,500 than the 10,000 previously estimated.
His comments, however, drew scepticism from some aid workers. Some areas appeared to teeter near anarchy.
ANC Television said security forces exchanged fire with armed men amid widespread looting of shops and warehouses for food, water and other supplies in the village of Abucay, part of worst-hit Tacloban in Leyte province.
Military officials were unable to immediately confirm the fighting. Eight people were crushed to death when looters raided rice stockpiles in a government warehouse in the town of Alangalang, causing a wall to collapse, local authorities said.
Other looters still managed to cart away 33,000 bags of rice weighing 50kg each, said Orlan Calayag, administrator of the state-run grain agency National Food Authority.
Warehouses owned by food and drinks company Universal Robina Corp and drug company United Laboratories were ransacked in the storm-hit town of Palo in Leyte, along with a rice mill in Jaro, said Alfred Li, head of the Leyte Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Tacloban city administrator Tecson John Lim said 90 per cent of the coastal city of 220,000 people had been destroyed, with only 20 percent of residents receiving aid. Houses were now being looted because warehouses were empty, he said. “The looting is not criminality. It is self-preservation,” Mr Lim said.
Some survivors in Tacloban dug up water pipes in a desperate bid for water. “We sourced our water from an underground pipe that we have smashed. We don’t know if it’s safe. We need to boil it. But at least we have something,” said Christopher Dorano (38).
“There have been a lot of people who have died here.” Resident Rachel Garduce said the aid - 3kg of rice and 1 litre of water per household a day - was not enough in her ravaged Tacloban neighbourhood.