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Desperation grows amid aid delays

Survivors dig up water pipes to stay alive

Desperation gripped Philippine islands devastated by Typhoon Haiyan as survivors panicked over delays in supplies of food, water and medicine, some digging up underground water pipes and smashing them open.

Five days after one of the strongest storms ever recorded slammed into cities and towns in the central Philippines, anger and frustration boiled over as essential supplies dwindled.

Controversy also emerged over the death toll.

President Benigno Aquino claimed that local officials had overstated the loss of life, which he said was closer to 2,000 or 2,500 than the 10,000 previously estimated.

But aid workers were left sceptical by his comments.

Security forces exchanged fire with armed men amid widespread looting of shops and warehouses for food, water and other supplies in Tacloban.

And eight people were crushed to death when survivors raided rice stockpiles in a government warehouse in Alangalang, causing a wall to collapse.

But survivors managed to cart away 33,000 bags of rice weighing 50kg each, said National Food Authority administrator Orlan Calayag.

Tacloban city administrator Tecson John Lim said that houses were now being looted because warehouses were empty.

But Mr Lim warned against judging survivors harshly.

"The looting is not criminality," he said.

"It is self-preservation."

Some survivors in Tacloban dug up water pipes in a desperate bid for water.

Meanwhile, relief operations picked up pace, but were still hugely overstretched.

US Brigadier General Paul Kennedy said that his troops would install equipment at Tacloban airport to allow planes to land at night.

A Norwegian ship carrying supplies left from Manila, while an Australian air force transport plane took off from Canberra carrying a medical team.

British and US navy vessels are also en route to the region.

The airport at Tacloban houses makeshift clinics. A doctor said supplies of antibiotics and anesthetics had arrived at Tacloban on Tuesday for the first time.

"Until then, patients had to endure the pain," said Dr Victoriano Sambale.

"Obviously the situation in Tacloban is appalling, but we are also very concerned about outlying islands," warned Red Cross Asia-Pacific spokesman Patrick Fuller.

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