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Panic over lack of food, water spreads in Philippines storm zone

MANILA -- Five days after Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the central Philippines, panic was spreading Wednesday across the disaster zone and residents were resorting to increasingly desperate measures to stay alive.

Eight people were crushed to death when a huge crowd stormed a rice warehouse near Tacloban, one of the worst-hit cities, local authorities said. More than 100,000 bags of rice were carted away in the melee, according to local news reports Wednesday.

Elsewhere, residents dug up underground pipes and smashed them open to get water.

The official death toll stood at 2,275, but aid workers feared it would continue to grow. The United Nations estimates that more than 11 million people were affected by the storm, one of the most powerful ever to make landfall.

PHOTOS: Central Philippines devastated by Typhoon Haiyan

Flights ferrying aid from around the world were arriving at the airport in Cebu, which has been turned into a logistics hub for the relief efforts. But food, water and medicines are just trickling into the worst affected areas.

In Tacloban, about 100 miles northeast of Cebu, bodies still lined the streets because, authorities said, there were not enough hands to remove them.

“People are absolutely desperate … which is why it is absolutely essential that we begin to move much faster than we have,” said Katherine Manik, national director for the U.S.-based aid group ChildFund International.

Philippine security forces have sent reinforcements and imposed a nighttime curfew in Tacloban, on the island of Lyete, to try to contain rampant looting. On Tuesday, troops killed two suspected communist rebels who attacked an aid convoy headed to the city, the military said.

Defending the relief effort, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said Wednesday that major roads have been cleared of debris and authorities have reached all but four affected areas to assess the needs. Additional logistics hubs are being established in the port town of Ormoc and at an airstrip in Guiuan.

Aid deliveries will accelerate, Almendras told reporters. “It’s just we have not seen anything on the magnitude that we are talking now.”

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Twitter: @alexzavis

alexandra.zavis@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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