Typhoon Haiyan: Philippine president claims typhoon death toll overstated

Typhoon Haiyan: Philippine president claims typhoon death toll overstated

PHILIPPINES - Desperation gripped Philippine islands devastated by Typhoon Haiyan as looting turned deadly on Wednesday and survivors panicked over delays in supplies of food, water and medicine, some digging up underground water pipes and smashing them open.

Five days after one of the strongest storms ever recorded roared over cities and towns in the central Philippines, survivors in remote regions complained they had yet to receive any aid.

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 skepticism from some aid workers.

Eight people were killed when looters raided rice stockpiles in a government warehouse in the town of Alangalang, causing part of the building to collapse, local authorities said.

Other looters still managed to cart away 33,000 bags of rice weighing 50 kg (110 lb) each, said Orlan Calayag, administrator of the state-run grain agency National Food Authority.

Looters also raided warehouses owned by food and drinks company Universal Robina Corp and drug company United Laboratories 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.

Soldiers sent in by Aquino to restore order in the city of Tacloban, which bore the brunt of the storm, fired shots into the air to scatter looters, television footage showed.

Tacloban city administrator Tecson John Lim said 90 per cent of the coastal city of 220,000 people had been destroyed, with only 20 per cent of residents receiving aid. Houses were now being looted because warehouses were empty, he said.

"The looting is not criminality. It is self-preservation," Lim told Reuters.

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 - 3 kg (6 lb) of rice and 1 litre (34 ounces) of water per household - was not enough in her ravaged Tacloban neighborhood. Her aunt in Manila, 580 km (360 miles) to the north, was travelling by road and ferry to bring supplies. "We are hoping she won't get hijacked," she said.

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