In the first reported deaths as a result of looting, 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.

The looters in Alangalang municipality on 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. Aviation authorities said two more airports in the region had reopened, allowing for more aid flights. US Brig Gen Paul Kennedy said that later today 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, a coastal city of 220,000, houses makeshift clinics and thousands of people looking for a flight out. A doctor here said supplies of antibiotics and anaesthetics arrived on Tuesday for the first time.

"Until then, patients had to endure the pain," said Dr Victoriano Sambale. The winds levelled tens of thousands of homes in region, which is used to typhoons. In some places, tsunami-like storm surges swept up to one-kilometre inland, causing more destruction and loss of life. At least 5,80,000 people have been displaced. Most of the death and destruction appears concentrated on the islands of Samar and Leyte.

(Agencies)

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