Relief efforts in typhoon-ravaged central Philippines picked up pace Wednesday, but delays in supplies of food, water and medical supplies sparked panic and increasingly caused desperate survivors to take matters into their own hands.
Eight people were crushed to death when a wall collapsed as they and thousands of others stormed a rice warehouse on Leyte Island, the worst-hit region by Friday's storm, said National Food Authority spokesman Rex Estoperez. They were the first reported deaths tied to looting.
The looters in Alangalang municipality Tuesday carted away up to 100,000 sacks of rice, he said.
Since the storm, people have broken into homes, malls 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 incident shows the urgency in getting food and water distributed to the disaster zone.
Reuters reported that some survivors in Tacloban, a coastal city of 220,000, dug up water pipes in a desperate bid for water.
"We sourced our water from an underground pipe that we have smashed. We don't know if it's safe. We need to boil it. But at least we have something," 38-year-old Christopher Dorano, told Reuters.
Tacloban city administrator Tecson John Lim said houses were being looted because warehouses were empty. He said 90 percent of the city had been destroyed, with only 20 percent of residents receiving aid.
"The looting is not criminality. It is self-preservation,'' Lim told Reuters.
Aviation authorities said two more airports in the region had reopened, allowing for more aid flights.
U.S. Brig Gen. Paul Kennedy said that later Wednesday his troops would install equipment at Tacloban airport to allow planes to land at night. Tacloban city was almost completely destroyed in Friday's typhoon and has become the main relief hub.
"You are not just going to see Marines and a few planes and some helicopters," Kennedy said. "You will see the entire Pacific Command respond to this crisis."
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 American navy vessels are also en route to the region.
The damaged airport on Tacloban houses makeshift clinics and thousands of people looking for a flight out. A doctor here said supplies of antibiotics and anesthetics arrived Tuesday for the first time.
"Until then, patients had to endure the pain," said Dr. Victoriano Sambale.
The winds leveled tens of thousands of homes in region, which is used to typhoons. In some places, tsunami-like storm surges swept up to one-mile inland, causing more destruction and loss of life. At least 580,000 people have been displaced. Most of the death and destruction appears concentrated on the islands of Samar and Leyte.
The damaged infrastructure and bad communications links made a conclusive death toll difficult to estimate.
The Philippine government on Wednesday raised the death toll to 2,275, The Wall Street Journal reported. President Benigno Aquino III told CNN in a televised interview Tuesday that the toll could be closer to 2,000 or 2,500, lower than an earlier estimate from two officials on the ground who said they feared as many as 10,000 might be dead.
"There is a huge amount that we need to do. We have not been able to get into the remote communities," U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said in Manila, launching an appeal for $301 million to help the more than 11 million people estimated to be affected by the storm.
"Even in Tacloban, because of the debris and the difficulties with logistics and so on, we have not been able to get in the level of supply that we would want to. We are going to do as much as we can to bring in more," she said. Her office said she planned to visit the city.
Relief officials said comparing the pace of this operation to those in past disasters was difficult.
In Indonesia's Aceh, the worst-hit region by the 2004 tsunami, relief hubs were easier to set up than in Tacloban. The main airport there was functioning 24 hours a day within a couple of days of the disaster. While devastation in much of the city of Banda Aceh was total, large inland parts of the city were undamaged, providing a base for aid operations and temporary accommodation for the homeless.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.