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Hunger in wake of Philippines typhoon

Children are begging on roadsides as food and supplies dwindle.

NEW BATAAN, Philippines // Desperate families begged for food yesterday, days after a typhoon brought death and destruction to parts of a southern island of the Philippines, as the storm returned to the north of the country.

Northern areas escaped with heavy rain after the storm weakened. But scenes of hardship were everywhere in southern areas that last week felt the full fury of the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year.

Officials said 548 people were confirmed dead, most of them on the island of Mindanao.

The civil defence chief, Benito Ramos, said the number of missing had shot up to 827 from a previous figure of 500.

In the Mindanao mountain town of New Bataan, which took the brunt of the typhoon, families lined the roads holding signs begging for food.

"Have mercy on us, please donate," read one sign held by a group of ragged children.

"We need food," read another sign displayed by a group standing amid ruined banana plantations.

Madeline Blanco, 36, the wife of a farmer, said her family was trying to make do while sheltering in a tent on a basketball court.

"We were given rations but it was not enough. Just rice, bread and noodles. It is not enough for me and my four children," she said.

"All we can do is wait for donations. There are cars passing by and sometimes drivers give us something."

Another farmer's wife, Emma Toledo, 59, complained that the relief supplies from the national government had yet to arrive.

"We have not been given anything yet. Only the local government and the village officials gave us something. Just some rice, noodles and dried fish," said the mother of three.

Drivers of private vehicles also handed out donations, but the lack of coordination led to more confusion.

When a lorry from a local power company arrived to distribute relief supplies, it was mobbed by hungry villagers and many children were almost trampled in the chaos.

Antonio Cloma, the regional civil defence officer, said many relief agencies, both government and non-government, were entering the area with supplies for typhoon victims.

"The government is doing its best to support the requirements for these victims," he said.

The local head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, David Carden, said there was a pressing need for food, shelter and other basic items, but also for generators.

He said there were "huge logistical challenges" in bringing in the aid.

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