Typhoon survivors desperate for food, aid

Thousands of people jostled and begged for seats on scarce flights out of a Philippine city demolished by a super typhoon, as anger at the slow pace of aid reaching the disaster zone turned deadly.

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News emerged that eight people were crushed to death on Tuesday when a huge crowd of survivors from Haiyan rushed a government rice store in Alangalang town, 17 kilometres from the devastated city of Tacloban.

“One wall of our warehouses collapsed and eight people were crushed and killed instantly” in Tuesday’s incident, said Rex Estoperez, spokesman for the National Food Authority.

Five days after Haiyan – one of the strongest storms ever – ripped apart entire coastal communities, the situation in Tacloban was becoming ever more dire with essential supplies low and increasingly desperate survivors clamouring to leave.

“Everyone is panicking,” Captain Emily Chang, a navy doctor, told AFP.

“They say there is no food, no water. They want to get of here,” she added, saying doctors at the airport had run out of medicine, including antibiotics.

“We are examining everyone but there’s little we can do until more medical supplies arrive.”

The United Nations estimates 10,000 people may have died in Tacloban, the provincial capital of Leyte province where five-metre waves flattened nearly everything in their path as they swept hundreds of metres across the low-lying land.

However, Philippine President Benigno Aquino said late on Tuesday he believed that toll was “too much”, adding that 2500 “is the figure we’re working on”, despite the rapidly-climbing toll and the bodies still littering the streets of Tacloban.

Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras admitted authorities had been overwhelmed by the sheer number of deaths.

“The reason the body recovery stopped is because we ran out of body bags,” he said. “But we now have 4000 bags. I am not saying the casualties are 4000. We are making sure there is an oversupply.”

At Tacloban airport, AFP journalists witnessed exhausted and famished survivors pushing and shoving each other to get on one of the few flights out of the city.

“We have been here for three days and we still cannot get to fly out,” said a frail Angeline Conchas, who was waiting for space on a plane with her seven-year-old daughter Rogiel Ann.

Her family were trapped on the second floor of their building as flood waters rose around them.

“We made it out, but now we may die from hunger.”

The UN estimates more than 11.3 million people have been affected with 673,000 made homeless, since Haiyan smashed into the nation’s central islands on Friday.

Overwhelmed and under-resourced rescue workers have been unable to provide food, water, medicines, shelter and other relief supplies to many survivors, and desperation has been building across the disaster zones.

The international relief effort is building momentum with many countries pledging help. The United States and Britain are sending warships carrying thousands of sailors to the Philippines, and US amphibious craft were also being deployed.

All were expected to arrive over the next few days. But for a shattered population already in dire straits, any delay is too long.

“People are desperate because they have nothing in Tacloban,” Marco Boasso of the International Organisation for Migration said.

Hundreds of soldiers and police were patrolling the streets and manning checkpoints in Tacloban on Wednesday to try to prevent pillaging and the government said roads were now passable throughout the area, raising hope that relief might reach those in need.

“All the roads and bridges except two bridges in Region 8 are already passable,” said National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council chief Eduardo del Rosario. Region 8 includes Leyte and Samar, the two hardest hit provinces.

“All our necessary relief goods, they can go to Tacloban (by road).”

President Aquino has declared a “state of national calamity”, allowing the government to impose price controls and quickly release emergency funds.

Aquino’s figure of up to 2500 deaths looked set to be easily surpassed. By early afternoon Wednesday the government said 2275 people were known to have died and 80 were still missing.

International aid groups said they feared what was known now was just the tip of the iceberg.

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

“There are a lot of them and I think it will be days, if not weeks, before we have a clear picture.

“No one is in a position to give an accurate figure. In Tacloban bodies are lying by the side of roads but those are just the ones that are visible. If you look around at the amount of wreckage caused you can see that people might have been taken out by a tidal surge.”

“It’s too early but (the death toll) will definitely be in the thousands.

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Charles officially becomes a pensioner

The Prince of Wales is set to celebrate his 65th birthday – a milestone for the man who will one day be king.

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Charles’s birthday on Thursday falls on the eve of the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) he will host in Sri Lanka.

It will be one of his most significant duties to date as a future monarch as he will be deputising for the Queen on the world stage.

Charles has been heir to the throne since he was three and on Thursday will officially become a pensioner.

Like thousands of others he will be claiming his pension this year – but will be donating it to an unnamed charity which supports the elderly.

The prince is entitled to the state benefit because he paid National Insurance contributions while in the Navy in the 1970s and made voluntary contributions later.

This year, he has also experienced the joy of welcoming his first grandchild, Prince George, into world.

A king in waiting for more than 60 years, he has carried out countless royal engagements over the decades, undertaking 480 in Britain and 112 overseas in 2012 alone.

The prince is the oldest heir to the throne for almost 300 years and the longest serving heir to the throne.

Charles recently told the US magazine Time he wanted to make the most of his position.

“I’ve had this extraordinary feeling, for years and years, ever since I can remember really, of wanting to heal and make things better,” he said.

“I feel more than anything else it’s my duty to worry about everybody and their lives in this country, to try and find a way of improving things if I possibly can.”

As well as being patron of more than 400 charities, he has set up The Prince’s Charities, a group of not-for-profit organisations which raise over STG100 million ($A172.12 million) a year. He also founded The Prince’s Trust youth charity.

The prince, who is known for his strong opinions, particularly on the environment, architecture and farming, has faced criticism in the past over his “black spider memos” to ministers – the name given to the handwritten letters he penned to government ministers expressing his views.

In July this year, the Attorney-General’s decision to block public disclosure of letters Charles wrote to ministers in 2004 and 2005 was upheld by three High Court judges.

It was a defeat for the Guardian newspaper which said it had been fighting an eight-year battle to shed more light “on the way the heir to the throne seeks to influence government ministers even though he holds no elected position”.

In the nineties, Charles faced turmoil in his private life, played out on a public stage when he split from Diana, Princess of Wales, and anguish when Diana – mother to sons William, now the Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry – died in a car crash.

Now nearly two decades later, life is more settled for the future king who has been married to Camilla for eight years.

She was once derided as the “other woman” in Charles and Diana’s relationship, but has established herself as a senior member of the royal family, attending the state opening of parliament and travelling with the Queen in her Diamond Jubilee carriage procession.

To mark his 65th birthday the prince has guest-edited a special edition of Country Life, highlighting his fears for the farming industry.

Charles expressed concerns that farming ranked as one of the least desirable careers for young people and that the average age of a British farmer is 58, and questioned why farmers have to act as a “buffer for the retailer and consumer against all the economic uncertainties of producing food”.

He added: “It cannot be right that a typical hill farmer earns just STG12,600, with some surviving on as little as STG8,000 a year, whilst the big retailers and their shareholders do so much better out of the deal, having taken none of the risk.”

The edition features a full-page photograph of Camilla, which editor Mark Hedges said was Charles’ decision.

The Country Life editor told Daybreak that when they were going through the pages of the magazine at the end, Charles suddenly said “my darling wife”.

“It was just so touching,” he said. “I really realised that they have a wonderful marriage.”

The royal couple are coming to the end of their nine-day tour of India which has already taken them to the shores of the River Ganges in the north, New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune.

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With a heavy heart, India prepares for Tendulkar farewell

The ‘Little Master’ will bring the curtain down on a glittering 24-year career at the age of 40 when he plays his 200th test match, against West Indies, at his home ground starting on Thursday.

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Among the 32,000 present will be his wheelchair-bound mother Rajni, for whom Tendulkar has managed to get a ramp at Wankhede Stadium so she can watch her idolised son bat for the first time.

“Mother has never seen him play. This will be the first time. Also it will be a very emotional moment,” his elder brother, Ajit, told an Indian Today group television programme.

For the last time, the superstitious Tendulkar will put on his left pad first, and walk out to bat in India’s colours, having long secured his place among the game’s greats.

“In terms of stats, you’re going to have players with better stats (in the future), you never know,” West Indies batting great Brian Lara said of the Indian.

“There are boxers who have a better record than Mohammad Ali but if you talk about boxing you’ve to mention Muhammad Ali, basketball you have to mention Michael Jordan. When you speak about cricket, you’ll speak about Tendulkar.”

Statistically the greatest batsman of all time, Tendulkar’s greatness goes far beyond those numbers.

Despite overwhelming adulation from a country that has virtually deified him, Tendulkar has displayed the same composure at the crease in accumulating 100 international centuries as he has done off the field.

His self-discipline and controversy-free image have made him a role model for India’s burgeoning youth, who are largely disillusioned with the politicians.

Since announcing his decision to retire from cricket, the country of 1.2 billion people has slipped into nostalgia about its biggest sporting icon.

Tendulkar’s career has dominated the pages of national dailies with figures from politics, sport and the corporate world all contributing to the frenzy surrounding his final match.

The website selling the meagre 5,000 tickets available for the public to attend the test crashed within minutes of opening on Monday under what it called “unprecedented pressure”, with 19.7 million hits in the first hour.

BATTING RECORDS

The frenzy was hardly a surprise given it will be the last chance to watch a player whose place in the batting pantheon is second only to Australian Don Bradman.

Bradman’s test average of 99.94 is nearly 40 runs ahead of any of his nearest rivals to have played at least 20 matches.

All other major run-scoring records belong to Tendulkar, who made his debut for India against Pakistan in Karachi in 1989 as a curly-haired 16-year-old.

He has scored the most runs in tests and one-day cricket and his 51 test centuries and 49 ODI hundreds are also records.

Even Bradman once asked his wife Jessie to watch Tendulkar on television to confirm his own impression that the pair had similar styles.

Tendulkar probably shouldered a more difficult task in living up to the expectations of 1.2 billion cricket-crazy fans every time he walked out to bat.

“Sachin Tendulkar has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years. It is time we carried him on our shoulders,” team mate Virat Kohli said after India’s players completed a lap of honour with Tendulkar on their shoulders following their World Cup win at home in 2011.

‘The God of cricket’, as fans call him in India, has not been in prime form during the last few years with his last test century coming against South Africa in January 2011.

Some believe the master batsman has played on for too long and should have retired after the World Cup victory.

LONG ROPE

“If I was Sachin, I would have quit a year ago,” Sourav Ganguly told NDTV in a chat show. “Last two-three years haven’t been good for him and only because he is Sachin Tendulkar he has been given the run for three years.

“Nobody in world cricket or Indian cricket would have got that rope.”

Tendulkar’s farewell series has been marked by a nostalgia-laden celebration of his glittering career.

In the last fortnight, a ground in Mumbai has been named after him, his wax statue has been unveiled at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, singers have produced a music album and countless banners, murals and paintings of him have sprouted up across India.

The government is also planning to bestow India’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, on him which would make him the first sportsman to achieve the honour.

“There used to be a hitch earlier when similar demands were made for Sachin to get the Bharat Ratna,” Indian minister Rajeev Shukla said. “That being he was still playing and it will be difficult to award him the Ratna.

“But now that he will be retiring we will renew our demand.”

* Due to an ongoing dispute between media organisations and the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Reuters is unable to provide full coverage of the India v West Indies test match.

(Editing by Ossian Shine)

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Pacquiao torn by typhoon victims’ plight

Boxing star Manny Pacquiao admitted feelings of anguish and regret after the final stages of training for a must-win fight kept him from visiting typhoon victims in his native Philippines.

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Pacquiao said he felt “very bad” for the thousands killed and displaced by super typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful ever recorded, which swept through central islands.

But Pacquiao, who is training out of harm’s way in his home city of General Santos, said he could not jeopardise preparations for his November 24 fight against America’s Brandon Rios.

“I really feel very bad over what happened in the Visayas region where more than 10,000 people are believed to have lost their lives,” Pacquiao said in a “statement to his people” posted on his website.

“I really want to visit the area and personally do what I can to help our countrymen who have suffered so much in this terrible tragedy but I’m in deep training in General Santos City for a crucial fight so I regret I cannot go.”

The 34-year-old Congressman pledged to send aid to affected areas, where the desperate search for supplies has turned deadly with eight people killed in a crush at a government rice store.

“I will send help to those who need it the most and I enjoin all of you to pray for our country and people in these trying times,” he said.

Pacquiao, a former champion in eight weight divisions, is bidding to turn back the clock and recover from two consecutive defeats when he faces Rios in Macau on November 24.

Defeat would redouble expectations for his retirement, although Pacquiao has insisted he will not hang up his gloves if he loses the World Boxing Organisation welterweight title bout.

The United Nations estimates 10,000 deaths from Typhoon Haiyan, although President Benigno Aquino says the toll is closer to 2,500.

An international relief operation is in action with 11.3 million people — a tenth of the Philippines’ population — affected and 673,000 people homeless, according to UN estimates.

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Hockey seeks to raise debt limit

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey has introduced legislation into parliament to raise the national debt ceiling to half a trillion dollars.

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Mr Hockey said he was presenting the bill “with regret”.

“The previous government recognised that ultimately whoever was elected after the election would have to deal with this issue,” he said.

The proposal before the lower house is to increase the debt ceiling, or allowable value of government bonds on issue, to $500 billion from $300 billion.

The current limit is expected to be reached on December 12, while Treasury advice to the government points to a peak in gross government debt above $400 billion by 2016.

Labor wants to amend the legislation to limit the cap to $400 billion in the absence of a “proper” explanation from the government on why it wants such a big increase.

The debt ceiling had been raised three times since 2008, when Labor was in power.

Mr Hockey said when in opposition, the coalition government had accepted the advice of the Australian Office of Financial Management (AOFM) and supported raising the debt limits.

But Labor, in concert with the Australian Greens, were now opposing a similar move – even though they caused the debt.

“It is Labor’s debt, there is no excuse,” Mr Hockey said.

The treasurer noted the debt ceiling was never raised under the former Howard coalition government because “we paid off the debt”.

Mr Hockey challenged Labor’s stance on his bill.

“This is a game that they are going to lose,” he said.

Mr Hockey said the debt cap increase was not about running up more debt.

“We don’t want to have to come back to this place and increase the debt level (again), we want to put it out of the way and get on with the job of paying it down,” he added.

Mr Hockey said he hoped the domestic and world economies continued to get better, but he didn’t know what lay ahead.

“We are being responsible,” he said.

“Labor trashed the joint when they were in government and now they are trying to stop us from fixing it.”

Mr Hockey said the debt cap increase was not about running up more debt.

“We don’t want to have to come back to this place and increase the debt level(again), we want to put it out of the way and get on with the job of paying it down,” added.

Mr Hockey said he hoped the domestic and world economies continued to get better, but he didn’t know what lay ahead.

“We are being responsible,” he said.

“Labor trashed the joint when they were in government and now they are trying to stop us from fixing it.”

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