Fears increase that the desperation of Philippine people, whose lives have been devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, will tip into violence amid reports of a fire-fight between security forces and armed men.
Local television reported on Wednesday that the Philippine security forces had exchanged fire with armed men, amid widespread looting of shops and warehouses for food.
The firefight was reported to have taken place in Abucay, Tacloban in one of the worst-hit provinces, Leyte. As yet the military has not confirmed the firefight took place.
You can’t have people who are here, who are desperate, who can’t get anything to eat and don’t have water. Valerie Amos, UN
In the town of Alangalang, also in Leyte, eight people were crushed to death when looters raided rice stockpiles in a government warehouse, causing a wall to collapse, local authorities said.
Warehouses owned by food and drinks company Universal Robina Corp and drug company United Laboratories were ransacked in Palo, Leyte, along with a rice mill in Jaro, said Alfred Li, head of the Leyte Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The desperation of the Philippine people can be seen in pictures emerging from the disaster zone, with survivors calling for help in graffiti and scrawled signs.
Aid organisations have struggled to get enough food and clean water into places like Tacloban, let alone more remote parts of the country.
At this moment we know there’s practically nothing left. Most of the things are destroyed, lots of people homeless without water, without food. Tim van Reit
Valerie Amos, the UN’s humanitarian chief, arrived in Tacloban on Wednesday in order to speed up aid efforts.
“What I’m trying to do is get things moving, so that we can get the stuff here,” she said after arriving at Tacloban airport.
“You can’t have people who are here, who are desperate, who can’t get anything to eat and don’t have water. It’s absolutely basic.”
Amos said 40 tonnes of supplies are sitting in Manila and are waiting to be transported, but a shortage of aircraft and trucks is preventing their delivery.
Tim van Riet, an aid worker with the Belgian First Aid and Support Team, speaking from a clinic in Tacloban, said: “(We’re) about 25-30 people. We’re waiting for the other crew. We’re waiting for supplies.
“At this moment our team leader is having discussions with United Nations and the Mayor, (about) where we can set up our field hospital.
“At this moment we know there’s practically nothing left. Most of the things are destroyed, lots of people homeless without water, without food.”
Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the storm, and it was previously reported that the number of dead was estimated to be 10,000.
However, on Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino said local officials had overstated the loss of life, saying it was closer to 2,000 or 2,500. His comments have been met with some scepticism by aid workers.