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Philippine mob ransacks rice storage in deadly stampede

FRANCE 24 screen grab

Days after Typhoon Haiyan devastated parts of the Philippines and killed more than 2,000 people, eight people were crushed to death when a mob of storm survivors stampeded a warehouse storing rice, officials said Wednesday.

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Eight people were crushed to death Tuesday after a crowd stormed a rice warehouse near the devastated city of Tacloban, a Philippine national official said Wednesday.

"One wall of our warehouses collapsed and eight people were crushed and killed instantly," said Rex Estoperez, a spokesman for the National Food Authority.

Police, soldiers and private security teams were guarding the store room in Alangalang town, 17 kilometres (10 miles) from Tacloban, but were overpowered by the crowd, which managed to abscond with 129,000 bags of rice, Estoperez said, noting that each bag weighed 50 kilogrammes.

"Our staff were there but they could not do anything without risking their safety," he said.

Estoperez said his agency believes that at least some in the crowd were looters looking to profit by selling the grain to desperate storm survivors.

"Some people are really hungry but others just wanted to ransack for money," he said.

Tacloban hardest hit

Tacloban, a coastal city in the central Philippines, was the area that sustained the worst damage in Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms in recorded history and which claimed the lives of at least 2,000 people.

As FRANCE 24 correspondents Cyril Payen and Ismail Wolff arrived there on Monday on one of the first commercial flights into the city after the typhoon, the damage was immediately apparent. The plane, which was filled with relatives desperate to find loved ones, fell silent as it began its descent over the ravaged landscape.

“Normally it’s a very sweet airport without any problems. Today, it’s hell on earth,” said Thomas, a Canadian national who had travelled to Tacloban to find his wife and son.

With relief efforts hampered by the devastation, crowds of survivors thronged the Tacloban airport hoping to flee.

“Tens of thousands have been affected. Many are coming here desperate to seek evacuation out of what they consider to be hell now,” Wolff reported. “[It’s not an] option for them to stay at home and they have no idea where else to go. But for them, these days are becoming more and more desperate as it looks like evacuation is not coming soon.”

Overflowing hospitals

Hospital waiting rooms in areas hit by Haiyan were overflowing as medical staff struggled to make do with few resources.

Hospitals in the Philippines overwhelmed after Typhoon Haiyan

One hospital in Tacloban was severely damaged. Some corridors were still partially submerged in water and there was no power, making it difficult to attend to those in need. Conditions were similar at another hospital in the Bogo district of the central Philippines’ Cebu city, where doctors have continued to treat patients despite a lack of electricity and running water.

“We have no water here and [we are doing everything possible], like collecting rain water, just for the use of emergency cases,” said Maria Ngojo, a medical technician at the hospital in Bogo. "We need generators because our laboratories are incapable. We cannot do anything without power."

International aid organisations and foreign governments have mounted rescue operations and committed millions of dollars in relief but some areas remain cut off because of the widespread destruction.

An estimated nine million people across the Philippines have been affected by the storm, and the United Nations has said that at least 660,000 have been displaced.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

 

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