Survivors of a deadly Philippines typhoon are attempting to get access to food and water, while the death toll has risen. Authorities are struggling to cope with the aftermath of one of the strongest storms on record.
The death toll for Super Typhoon Haiyan rose to 2,344, with a further 600,000 people displaced or in urgent need of assistance, the national disaster relief agency announced on Wednesday.
Thousands of people struggled to board one of the few flights leaving the ravaged city of Tacloban, where many have lost faith in the government after being promised aid five days after the storm hit. Mayor Alfred Romualdez had urged residents to leave the city.
"I recommend that children and other dependents be sent to their relatives outside the city and especially those who have lost everything," he said. "The less people we have in Tacloban, the less to feed."
Amid reports of violence, as well as a lack of food and water, national disaster relief agency chief Eduardo del Rosario admitted the government was struggling to provide the necessary resources to deal with the storm aftermath.
"We have a system but we are not perfect," he said. "We are closing the gaps."
In Abucay village near Tacloban, a convoy headed towards a communal grave was reportedly stopped by gunfire.
"We had finished digging the mass burial site. We had the trucks loaded with bodies … but … there was some shooting," Romualdez told the AFP news agency. "They could not proceed."
Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala denied the reports of gunfire were true, saying: "There is so much disinformation in the area."
Deadly warehouse collapse
Adding to the already grim situation was the news of a deadly warehouse wall collapse in the town of Alangalang in Leyte province, where the devastation was most severe. Philippines officials said a crowd of typhoon survivors overpowered police and soldiers guarding a rice warehouse on Tuesday. A wall collapsed, crushing and killing eight people.
National Food Authority spokesman Rex Estoperez said personnel guarding the warehouse felt "they could not do anything without risking their safety." Each bag weighed 50 kilograms (110 pounds).
"There must have been so many people to carry away so many bags," Estperez said, urging those who took the rice to "please share with the people who need it."
Major relief effort
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned there are significant injuries that need to be dealt with and doctors are working to prevent the spread of disease in the cramped, dirty conditions created by the storm. The organization added the 12,000 child births expected this month will only worsen the situation for the already 11.2 million people affected.
As many as 10,000 people may have been killed by the typhoon in Tacloban alone, according to the WHO, though President Benigno Aquino said late Tuesday that a death toll of 2,500 "is the figure we're working on."
At least $88 million (66 million euros) in emergency aid has been pledged by the international community. The US Marine Corps sent more aircraft to the Philippines on Wednesday to assist in relief efforts, according to a statement. The George Washington carrier and its escort of two cruisers and a destroyer are also en route from Japan.
dr/mkg (AFP, dpa)