Panic Over Lack of Food, Water Spreads in Philippines Storm Zone

MANILA, Philippines (Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

Five days after Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the central Philippines, panic was spreading Wednesday across the disaster zone and residents were resorting to increasingly desperate measures to stay alive.

Eight people were crushed to death when a huge crowd stormed a rice warehouse near Tacloban, one of the worst-hit cities, local authorities said. More than 100,000 bags of rice were carted away in the melee, according to local news reports Wednesday.

Elsewhere, residents dug up underground pipes and smashed them open to get water.

The official death toll stood at 2,275, but aid workers feared it would continue to grow. The United Nations estimates that more than 11 million people were affected by the storm, one of the most powerful ever to make landfall.

Flights ferrying aid from around the world were arriving at the airport in Cebu, which has been turned into a logistics hub for the relief efforts. But food, water and medicines are just trickling into the worst-affected areas.

In Tacloban, on the island of Leyte, about 100 miles northeast of Cebu, bodies still lined the streets because, authorities said, there were not enough hands to remove them.

“People are absolutely desperate … which is why it is absolutely essential that we begin to move much faster than we have,” said Katherine Manik, national director for the U.S.-based aid group ChildFund International.

Philippines security forces have sent reinforcements and imposed a nighttime curfew in Tacloban to try to contain rampant looting. On Tuesday, troops killed two suspected communists who attacked an aid convoy headed to the city, the military said.