The air inside the clinic was fetid. Babies screamed and despondent elderly patients sat in chairs, eating dry crackers. One woman nursed her newborn, signing a lullaby. Intravenous drip bags hung from nails driven into the walls and doorjambs.
Thelma Superable, 74, was vomited and needed emergency dialysis. She, her 51-year-old son, Danny Superable, and his young son have made their way to the clinic from their home, 37 kilometers (20 miles) away, by walking and hitching rides. By the time they reached the clinic, they were down to one bottle — with an inch of water left in it. "I am trembling because I am hungry," Danny Superable said. "It's survival of the fittest."
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 of robbers operating in a systematic manner.
The death toll rose to 2,344, according a national tally kept by the disaster agency. That figure is expected to rise, perhaps significantly, when accurate information is collected from the whole disaster zone, which spreads over a wide swath of the eastern and central Philippines but appears to be concentrated on two main islands — Leyte and Samar.
The congressman for Eastern Samar province, a coastal region that bore the full force of the storm, said 211 people had been killed there and 45 were missing.
"The situation there was horrible," Ben Evardone told a local TV station. "Some communities disappeared, entire villages were wiped out. They were shouting 'food, food, food!' when they saw me."
The government says planes, ships and trucks were all on their way, loaded with generators, water purifying kits and emergency lights — vital equipment to sustain a major relief mission. Airports were reopening in the region, and the U.S. military said it was installing equipment to allow the damaged Tacloban aiport to operate 24-7.
A Norwegian ship carrying supplies left from Manila, while an Australian air force transport plane carrying a medical team took off from Canberra. British and U.S. navy vessels are also en route.
U.S. Brig Gen. Paul Kennedy promised a response akin to the widely praised U.S. military one after the 2004 Asian tsunami, when fleets of helicopters dropped water and food to hundreds of isolated communities.
"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."
Associated Press writers Oliver Teves, Chris Brummitt and Teresa Cerojano in Manila contributed to this report.
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