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Looting, gunfire break out in typhoon-hit Tacloban

Eight die when wall collapses on crowd raiding a rice warehouse, while security forces exchange gunfire with an armed gang.

TACLOBAN // Eight people were killed when a wall collapsed as a crowd raided a rice warehouse on the island worst hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan yesterday, while security forces exchanged gunfire with an armed gang.

The incidents in or close to Tacloban, the capital of Leyte island, add to concerns about the slow pace of aid distribution and that parts of the disaster zone were descending into chaos.

The cogs of what promises to be a massive international aid effort were beginning to turn, but not quickly enough for the hundreds of thousands of people left homeless, hungry and thirsty since Haiyan devastated the eastern seaboard of the Philippines on Friday.

Thousands of sacks of rice were carried off in the raid on a warehouse of the government food authority in Alangalang town, 17 kilometres from Tacloban.

“One wall of our warehouses collapsed and eight people were crushed and killed instantly,” said Rex Estoperez, a spokesman for the authority.

Gunfire broke out close to city’s San Juanico bridge between security forces and a group of men, but the circumstances were unclear, according to local TV reports.

Shootings yesterday also prevented an attempt to bury some of the storm victims, whose bodies were still lying on the streets of the city.

“We had finished digging the mass burial site. We had the truck loaded with bodies but there was shooting,” said the Tacloban mayor, Alfred Romualdez. “They could not proceed.”

At Tacloban’s airport, thousands of people jostled and begged for seats on scarce flights out of the city’s.

“Everyone is panicking,” said Capt Emily Chang, a navy doctor.

“They say there is no food, no water. They want to get of here,” she added, saying doctors at the makeshift hospital set up at the airport had run out of medicine, including antibiotics.

“There’s a bit of a logjam getting stuff in here,” said Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, a United Nations official. “It’s almost all in the country – either in Manila or in Cebu, but it’s not here. We’re going to have a real challenge in terms of getting things into town, out of town, into the other areas,” he said.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council put the number of confirmed deaths from the storm at 2,344.

The United Nations had estimated that 10,000 people may have died in Tacloban alone, but the Philippines president, Benigno Aquino, said on Tuesday that the overall death toll could be between 2,000 and 2,500.

* Associated Press and Agence France-Presse

Updated: November 13, 2013 04:00 AM