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Aid for Filipinos looted

Widespread looting of rice stocks and other supplies broke out in Leyte province.

A typhoon victim walks past land ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, on the eastern island of Leyte on 13 November, 2013. Picture:AFP

TACLOBAN, Philippines - Philippine's President Benigno Aquino is under growing pressure to speed up the distribution of food, water and medicine to desperate survivors of a powerful typhoon and to get local governments functioning.

Widespread looting of rice stocks and other supplies broke out across hardest-hit Leyte province on Wednesday despite the deployment of solders to maintain law and order in the wake of one of the world's fiercest typhoons.

While international relief efforts have picked up, many petrol station owners whose businesses were spared have refused to reopen, leaving little fuel for trucks needed to move supplies and medical teams around the devastated areas nearly a week after Typhoon Haiyan struck.

"There are still bodies on the road," said Alfred Romualdez, mayor of the devastated Leyte capital of Tacloban. "It's scary. There is a request from a community to come and collect bodies, they say it's five or 10. When we get there it's 40."

The scarcity of trucks presented grim options. "The choice is to use the same truck either to distribute food or collect bodies," he added.

About 300 bodies will be buried in a mass grave on Thursday and a larger grave will be dug for a 1,000, Tacloban city administrator Tecson John Lim told Reuters.

The city government remains decimated, with just 70 workers compared to 2,500 normally, he added. Many were killed, injured, lost family or were simply too overwhelmed with grief to work.

The USS George Washington aircraft carrier was due to arrive in the Philippines on Thursday evening, with 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft. Japan was also planning to send up to 1,000 troops as well as naval vessels and aircraft, in what could be Tokyo's biggest postwar military deployment.

AQUINO UNDER PRESSURE

Aquino has been on the defensive over his government's preparations ahead of the storm given repeated warnings of its projected strength and now the pace of relief efforts.

He has said the death toll might have been higher had it not been for the evacuation of people and the readying of relief supplies.

City administrator Lim, who previously estimated 10,000 people likely died in Tacloban alone, said Aquino may be deliberately downplaying casualties.

The preliminary number of missing as of Thursday, according to the Red Cross, remained 22,000. It has cautioned that number could include people who have since been located.

More the 544,600 people have been displaced by the storm and nearly 12 percent of the population directly affected, the United Nations said.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) described a bleak situation in Guiuan, home to 45,000 people.

LOOTING IS "SELF-PROTECTION

Lim said 90 percent of Tacloban, a coastal city of 220,000 people, had been destroyed by the typhoon and the wall of seawater it shoved ashore.

Only 20 percent of residents were getting aid while houses were being looted because warehouses were empty, he added.

"The looting is not criminality. It is self-preservation," Lim said.

There are not enough flights from Tacloban airport to cope with the exodus from the stricken city.

Many people complained that military families were given priority to board the C-130 cargo planes.

The overall financial cost of the destruction was hard to assess. Initial estimates varied widely, with a report from German-based CEDIM Forensic Disaster Analysis putting the total at $8 billion to $19 billion.