As anarchy spread across a Philippine city demolished by one of the world’s strongest typhoons, a 13-year-old boy holding a toy car and walking alone at night was slashed across the neck and stabbed in the stomach.
Jonathan Salayco said he was on the debris-strewn streets of disaster-hit Tacloban when two men he did not know pounced late Tuesday, attacking him with a knife before disappearing without a trace.
“He was still holding his toy car,” said Mina Joset, a Red Cross nurse at Tacloban hospital where Salayco was brought in on Wednesday morning.
Residents of Leyte’s ruined provincial capital — where bodies still line roads — are living in fear after looters ran wild in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms ever recorded, on Friday.
The category five storm killed hundreds or possibly thousands in Tacloban, flattening buildings and cutting off power, water, electricity and communications. Authorities there are struggling to deliver much-needed food and medical supplies to an increasingly desperate population.
Salayco had a slit throat and stab wound in his stomach, according to Joset, but due to a lack of medical supplies at the overwhelmed hospital doctors could only temporarily dress his wounds.
“For a boy like him, this is a serious injury,” the nurse said.
Fortunately for Salayco, officials were able to get him on a military helicopter which took him to a hospital on another island for further treatment.
Famished and destitute survivors desperately searched for food following the storm, some resorting to looting. Others took advantage of the post-disaster chaos to steal not only food and water but also consumer items from televisions to toys.
To restore law and order, the government has sent almost 2,000 police, soldiers and special forces to patrol and man checkpoints on Leyte island. A night-time curfew is also in force.
On Wednesday gunshots forced the postponement of a mass burial of typhoon victims, the mayor of Tacloban told AFP.
Local doctor Corazon Rubio survived last week’s typhoon that killed 10 of her neighbours but she said it the aftermath that left her terrified.
“What is frightening is the looting,” Rubio told AFP.
“They would get TV sets from the houses. Of what use are they? We don’t even have electricity,” she asked despairingly.
Terrified shop owners have fled, fearing that their families would be targeted.
“The businesses of Tacloban are all leaving… because of safety issues,” Alfred Li, head of the local chamber of commerce, said.
He told how organised gangs had broken into warehouses, taking the most expensive items, while individual looters help themselves to the rest.
Presidential spokesman Ramon Carandang has sought to play down security fears.
“There have been so many reports of looting and rape which have turned out not to be correct,” he told ABS-CBN television.
Manila police officer Julian Bagawayan said 150 members of his riot police squad were in Tacloban, conducting curfew foot patrols which started on Monday night.
“We are here to stop people looting properties and breaking into homes,” he said.
“If we see people loitering after dark, we will advise them to go indoors. If they refuse, there are laws applicable to them.”