World News

Desperate Philippine Typhoon Survivors Search for Food, Water

Survivors of a typhoon that slammed the central Philippines on Friday have become increasingly desperate, looting shops and aid convoys in search of food and water.

Local authorities said they believe up to 10,000 people were killed on the central islands of Leyte and Samar, where Haiyan became one of the world's strongest recorded cyclones to make landfall. Many drowned when tsunami-like waves swept through island communities.

Officials on Samar said at least 300 people were confirmed dead, with another 2,000 missing.

The Philippine government said its official death toll was 229 late Sunday, but it has acknowledged the figure is likely to increase substantially.

After going without food for three days, some residents of Leyte's capital, Tacloban, resorted to ransacking the ruins of stores and homes in the devastated city of 200,000 people.

Looters also raided delivery vans carrying humanitarian aid. But other residents lined up peacefully as Philippine soldiers handed out supplies.

Corpses were scattered through debris-filled streets and authorities struggled to retrieve them.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino flew into Tacloban on Sunday. He said his government's priority is to deliver relief and medical assistance to survivors, and restore power and communications in isolated areas.

The U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Office in Manila said aid workers have "ramped up critical relief operations" in the affected region. But it said "access remains a key challenge," as some areas are still cut off supplies.

The U.N. World Food Program said it is working with the Philippine government to fly food, logistics and communications equipment to Cebu island, southwest of Leyte. It said Cebu airport will become a key hub for airlifts to Tacloban, whose airport was badly damaged and closed to all but military aircraft.

Aid group Doctors Without Borders said it is sending dozens of medical personnel and logisticians to Cebu in the coming days, along with 200 tons of medical and relief items. But, the group said it has not been able to fully assess the needs of typhoon survivors because access to affected areas is "extremely difficult."

The United States is assisting with relief efforts. In a Saturday statement, the Defense Department said the U.S. Pacific Command has been directed to assist in search and rescue operations, and aircraft support.

A U.S. relief team also has been deployed to the region. The U.S. Agency for International Development said the team will conduct damage assessments, track conditions and "advise on additional needs."

At the Vatican, Pope Francis used his weekly Angelus prayer to urge the faithful to pray in silence for the typhoon's victims. He said he feels close to the Philippine people and urged his listeners to send concrete assistance to them. The Philippines has the largest Roman Catholic population in Asia.

Weather agencies said Typhoon Haiyan was expected to hit northern Vietnam early Monday, after moving northwest through the Gulf of Tonkin. On Sunday, the storm dumped heavy rain on southern China's Hainan island to the east, forcing authorities to cancel flights.

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