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Philippine troops kill two rebels during attack on typhoon aid convoy

Philippine troops have killed two communist rebels as they tried to attack an aid convoy on its way to victims of Typhoon Haiyan. President Benigno Aquino has revised an earlier death toll down to 2,000 to 2,500 people.

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Philippines: the fight for survival

The Philippine army said on Tuesday it had thwarted a plan by the rebels to attack a relief convoy on its way to the devastated regions hit hard by Friday's category-five typhoon. The clash happened in Matnog town in Sorsogon province, 400 kilometers (248 miles) south of the capital, Manila.

Two rebels were killed from the New People's Army, the militant wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and another was wounded and captured in the fighting.

"There were no casualties on the government side," said Lieutenant Colonel Joselito Kakilala. "We thwarted the plan of the rebels to ambush a government relief convoy."

The provincial capital of Leyte, Tacloban, was one of the cities hit hardest by Haiyan and has seen some of the worst looting. A night curfew has been put in place in the city of 220,000 residents, while armored vehicles and elite security forces patrol streets amid reports of survivors raiding stores, and gangs stealing consumer goods such as televisions from small businesses.

Interior Secretary Max Roxas said four armoured personnel carriers had been dispatched to Tacloban, in hopes they would be a deterrent to looters.

"We are circulating them in the city to show the people, especially those with bad intentions, that the authorities have returned," Roxas told Philippine radio.

President Aquino speaks

Philippines president Benigno Aquino said the death toll from the typhoon was closer to 2,000 or 2,500, less than the 10,000 from initial estimates.

"Ten thousand, I think, is too much," Aquino told CNN. "There was emotional drama involved with that particular estimate." He warned that the death toll may rise.

The official death toll stood at 1,774 on Tuesday.

"They all want to go to Tacloban"

One major obstacle hampering the relief effort in the Philippines is the lack of access to Tacloban, said DW correspondent Bastian Hartig from Cebu City, a major Philippines metropolis.

"There's rescue squads from all over the world touching down here in Cebu and they all want to go to Tacloban, and their biggest problem is actually how to get there. We saw a lot of rescue workers today at the airports scrambling for the few seats that are available on the planes that go there," Hartig said.

Many survivors and families have also been unable to contact loved ones in the disaster-hit areas.

"The phone networks are down, I've heard that text messages sometimes go through if you're lucky but phonecalls virtually never," Hartig said.

"We met a lot of people at the airport today ... they've come from all around the country and they have relatives in Tacloban, and they're worried out of their minds because they haven't heard from them in days and don't know if they're still alive."

Global relief effort

Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest to ever hit the Philippines, and one of the strongest in the world, with winds of up to 315 kilometres per hour (195 miles).

The typhoon triggered tsunami-like waves of up to five meters (16 feet) that flattened cities and towns.

The storm affected more than nine million people over 41 provinces in the Philippines, and displaced more than 600,000.

The devastation has seen an outpouring of donations from world governments and the United Nations, which has launched a global appeal fund for $750 million (558 million euros), while itself also pledging $25 million (18.7 million euros) from its emergency relief fund.

The money is "needed for food, health, sanitation, shelter, debris removal and protection of the most vulnerable," said UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos.

jr/ph (AFP, dpa)

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