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Rice looted in Philippines amid aid shortage

By Jim Gomez & Kriten Gelineau

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:00 p.m. HST, Nov 12, 2013

TACLOBAN, Philippines >> Thousands of people stormed a rice warehouse on an island devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, authorities said Wednesday (Tuesday in Hawaii), highlighting the urgent need to get water, food and medical supplies into an increasingly desperate region.

Five days after one of the strongest tropical storms on record leveled tens of thousands of houses in the central Philippines, relief operations were only starting to pick up pace, with two more airports in the region reopening, allowing for more aid flights.

But minimal food and water was reaching people in the devastated city of Tacloban, on Leyte island, which bore the brunt of the storm, and outlying regions due to a lack of trucks and blocked roads.

"There's a bit of a logjam to be absolutely honest getting stuff in here," said Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"You've had quite a lot of security coming in over the last couple of days, less so other things. So then it gets here and then we're going to have a real challenge with logistics in terms of getting things out of here, into town, out of town, into the other areas," he said from the airport in Tacloban.

"The reason for that essentially is that there are no trucks, the roads are all closed."

In the first reported deaths as a result of looting, eight people were crushed to death Tuesday when a wall collapsed as they and thousands of others stormed a rice warehouse on Leyte Island, said National Food Authority spokesman Rex Estoperez.

The looters in Alangalang municipality carted away up to 100,000 sacks of rice, he said.

Since the storm, people have broken into homes, malls and garages, where they have stripped the shelves of food, water and other goods. Authorities have struggled to stop the looting. There have been unconfirmed reports of armed gangs involved in some instances.

Police were working to keep order across the ravaged wasteland. An 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew was in place.

"We have restored order," said Carmelo Espina Valmoria, director of the Philippine National Police special action force. "There has been looting for the last three days, (but) the situation has stabilized."

U.S. Brig Gen. Paul Kennedy said that later Wednesday his troops would install equipment at Tacloban airport to allow planes to land at night. Tacloban, a city of 220,000, was almost completely destroyed in Friday's typhoon and has become the main relief hub.

"You are not just going to see Marines and a few planes and some helicopters," Kennedy said. "You will see the entire Pacific Command respond to this crisis."

A Norwegian ship carrying supplies left from Manila, while an Australian air force transport plane took off from Canberra carrying a medical team. British and American navy vessels are also en route to the region.

At the damaged airport in Tacloban, makeshift clinics have been set up and thousands of people were looking for a flight out. A doctor here said supplies of antibiotics and anesthetics arrived Tuesday for the first time.

"Until then, patients had to endure the pain," said Dr. Victoriano Sambale.

At least 580,000 people have been displaced by the disaster. In some places, tsunami-like storm surges swept up to one-kilometer (mile) inland, causing more destruction and loss of life. Most of the death and destruction appears concentrated on the islands of Samar and Leyte.

The damaged infrastructure and bad communications links made a conclusive death toll difficult to estimate.

The official toll from a national disaster agency rose to 1,883 on Tuesday. President Benigno Aquino III told CNN in a televised interview that the toll could be closer to 2,000 or 2,500, lower than an earlier estimate from two officials on the ground who said they feared as many as 10,000 might be dead.

"There is a huge amount that we need to do. We have not been able to get into the remote communities," U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said in Manila, launching an appeal for $301 million to help the more than 11 million people estimated to be affected by the storm.

"Even in Tacloban, because of the debris and the difficulties with logistics and so on, we have not been able to get in the level of supply that we would want to. We are going to do as much as we can to bring in more," she said. Her office said she planned to visit the city.

Relief officials said comparing the pace of this operation to those in past disasters was difficult.

In Indonesia's Aceh, the worst-hit region by the 2004 tsunami, relief hubs were easier to set up than in Tacloban. The main airport there was functioning 24 hours a day within a couple of days of the disaster. While devastation in much of the city of Banda Aceh was total, large inland parts of the city were undamaged, providing a base for aid operations and temporary accommodation for the homeless.


AP writers Oliver Teves, Chris Brummitt and Teresa Cerojano in Manila, Kristen Gelineau in Cebu and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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allie wrote:
This was all too predictable
on November 12,2013 | 06:50AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Fortunately, the Philippines are known for their operations and logistics efficiency and effective organization.
on November 12,2013 | 07:07AM
serious wrote:
Naneki_Neko, might be true but I if they hadn't kicked us out of Clark AB we could have been right on the spot with our logistics, aircraft, fuel and maintenance. Last time I was there their infrastructure was just above second world status.
on November 12,2013 | 07:17AM
DemBones wrote:
With unchecked graft in the Filipino government, these officials are filling their pockets like bandits. Then aid will flow.
on November 12,2013 | 07:52AM
islandsun wrote:
That's the biggest obstacle. The folks in need will be left without again. That why they will always be a poor country with very little economy to speak of.
on November 12,2013 | 09:38AM
allie wrote:
on November 12,2013 | 10:12AM
Publicbraddah wrote:
One thing I've noticed with post disasters (Katrina, Hiyan, etc.), disaster PLANS do not work. It should work but do so very slowly if at all. I wonder out loud about Hawaii's ability to weather a category 5 hurricane or a tsunami like Fukushima. The evacuation of coastal areas during the last 2 tsunamis seems to have gone well but a large hurricane and the disaster it can produce worries me. I really don't think we're prepared enough.
on November 12,2013 | 08:01AM
walaau808 wrote:
Short of everyone building an underground bunker, I really don't think we can be prepared enough due to the lack of space (personal property area) and our very large dependence on shipped goods.
on November 12,2013 | 09:04AM
allie wrote:
on November 12,2013 | 10:12AM
CriticalReader wrote:
Two things comes to mind while looking at the devastation pictures. Building Codes and zoning laws. We have them. We complain about them. But it looks like the heavy impact areas in the Philipines didn't.
on November 12,2013 | 10:32AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
I saw a story on the news about our US Marines flying in to help the Filipinos who were impacted by this terrible storm. I for one am proud when our military is the first in to provide relief when a natural disaster strikes. Our service members are among our nation's best, and when they go in and help people in need it makes they make our nation proud. Great work Marines! Stay safe.
on November 12,2013 | 04:12PM
hikine wrote:
I don't understand why the President didn't declare Martial Law to prevent such looting. I also don't understand why the Government is taking so long to distribute these supplies to the needy as they have helicopters available which can launch from a carrier and land anywhere! The government is showing they're incompetent of providing for it's citizens! Five days of minimal food/water and medical assistance. What was 100,000 sacks of rice doing in the warehouse, it's supposed to be distributed to the hungry people! The local government thugs probably got their first hands on these booties.
on November 12,2013 | 10:26PM
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