Food looters crushed in store raid

Relief operations in the typhoon-devastated Tacloban region picked up pace yesterday, but the minimal amounts of water, food and medical supplies reaching the hardest-hit areas were causing increasingly desperate survivors to take matters into their own hands.

In the first reported deaths as a result of looting, eight people were crushed to death when a wall collapsed as thousands stormed a rice warehouse on Leyte Island, the worst-hit region by the storm, said Philippines National Food Authority spokesman Rex Estoperez.

The looters carted away up to 100,000 sacks of rice.

Since the storm, people have broken into homes, shops 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.

The latest deadly incident shows the urgency in getting food and water distributed to the disaster zone.

Aviation authorities said two more airports in the region had reopened, allowing for more aid flights.

US Brigadier General Paul Kennedy said his troops would install equipment at Tacloban airport to allow planes to land at night. Tacloban City was almost completely destroyed and has become the main relief hub.

"You will see the entire Pacific Command respond to this crisis," Kennedy said.

- AP

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