'Help Us': Isolated typhoon victims clamour for food

'Help Us': Isolated typhoon victims clamour for food

HOMONHON, Philippines - The message spelt out in giant letters on the ground outside the remote, typhoon-shattered Philippine village was clear enough: "Help Us. We Need Food".

Easily visible as the US helicopter carrying emergency food supplies made its approach Monday, it reflected the desperation of the villagers 10 days after Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the central Philippines.

As soon as the chopper touched down and the doors opened, around 100 villagers rushed to the aircraft and began pulling at the bags of rice inside before they could be properly unloaded.

"It's the first food we've had," a woman shouted as the crew tried to persuade the residents of the tiny inland village in eastern Leyte island to move back.

The rice was finally offloaded and, as the helicopter took off again, one of the villagers gestured wildly with his hands to his mouth, pleading for the crew to return with more supplies.

"Those in the remote areas are the most desperate," said Chief Petty Officer Matthew Gensler. "The further out you go, the harder it is."

The helicopter was one of many that have been flying continual sorties off the USS George Washington aircraft carrier since it arrived to spearhead a growing international relief operation.

Haiyan made landfall on November 8, triggering a storm surge that laid waste to large areas of coastline and pummelling inland towns and villages with some of the strongest winds ever recorded.

The official death toll stands at 3,976 with 1,598 people missing. The United Nations estimates up to four million people have been displaced, of whom only 350,000 have found shelter in evacuation centres.

On the tiny island of Homonhon, which suffered a direct hit from the super typhoon, the mood was calmer, with villagers waiting patiently as the helicopter crew unloaded water supplies.

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