John Lajara peers under a slab of crumbled concrete, lifts a sodden white teddy bear then drops it back into the filth.

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But he’s searching for something far more precious – the body of his brother, Winston.

The search for the missing – 1,179 by official count – has become a hellish daily activity for some. In Lajara’s seaside village, residents estimate that about 50 of the 400 people who lived there were killed. About half of the dead are still missing: mothers, fathers, children and friends.

“Somehow, part of me is gone,” Lajara said as another fruitless expedition in the rubble ended Saturday.

Lajara has carried out the routine since both he and his brother were swept from their house by Typhoon Haiyan on November 8. And every day has ended so far with no answers on Winston’s fate.

According to the latest figures by the Philippines’ main disaster agency, 3,633 people died and 12,487 were injured. Many of the bodies remain tangled in piles of debris, or are lining the road in body bags that seep fetid liquid. Some are believed to have been swept out to sea.

After the initial days of chaos, when no aid reached the more than 600,000 people rendered homeless, an international aid effort was gathering steam.

“We’re starting to see the turning of the corner,” said John Ging, a top UN humanitarian official in New York. He said 107,500 people have received food assistance so far and 11 foreign and 22 domestic medical teams are in operation.

US Navy helicopters flew sorties from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington off the coast, dropping water and food to isolated communities. The US military said it will send about 1,000 more troops along with additional ships and aircraft to join the aid effort.

So far, the US military has moved 174,000 kilograms of supplies and flown nearly 200 sorties.

The focus of the aid effort is on providing life-saving aid for those who survived, while the search for missing people is lower in the government’s priorities.

The head of the country’s disaster management agency, Eduardo del Rosario, said the coast guard, the navy and civilian volunteers are searching the sea for the dead and the missing.

Still, he said, the most urgent need is “ensuring that nobody starves and that food and water are delivered to them.”

Lajara’s neighbour, Neil Engracial, cannot find his mother or nephew, but he has found many other bodies. He points at a bloated corpse lying face down in the muddy debris. “Dante Cababa – he’s my best friend,” Engracial says. He points to another corpse rotting in the sun. “My cousin, Charana.” She was a student, just 22.

Lajara remembers the moment his brother vanished.

They were standing alongside each other side by side with relatives and friends before the surge hit. They stared at the rising sea, then turned to survey the neighbourhood behind them, trying to figure out where or if they could run. Then the wave rushed in.

Lajara, Winston and the others dived into the water, and were swept away from each other. After Lajara’s face hit the water, he never saw Winston again.

Lajara has trudged through the corpse-strewn piles of rubble and mud, searching for two things: wood to rebuild his home, and Winston. So far he has found only wood.

On Saturday, he set out again. The rat-a-tat-tat of a snare drum echoed across the landscape, as a young boy played the instrument from the roof of a gutted building. It was a grim accompaniment to what has become Lajara’s daily march into the corpse-strewn wasteland that was his home, where the sickly sweet stench of death mixes with the salty sea air.

Reminders of the people who once lived here are wedged everywhere among the warped piles of wood, glass and mud: a smiling, bowtie-clad stuffed bumblebee. A woman’s white platform shoe. A wood-framed photograph of a young boy.

Suddenly, a neighbour, Pokong Magdue, approached.

“Have you seen Winston?”

Magdue replies: “We saw him in the library.”

Lajara shakes his head. It can’t be Winston. He’s already searched the library.

Sometimes people come to him and inform him that Winston’s body has been found. Lajara must walk to the corpse, steel himself, and roll it over to examine the face.

He then must deal with conflicting emotions: relief that the body is not his brother’s. Hope that Winston might still be alive. And grief that he still has no body to bury. Because at least then, he says, he could stop searching.

Winston was his only brother. He had a wife and two teenage children. He was a joker who made everyone laugh. He drove a van for a living and was generous to everyone. He was a loving father.

“It’s hard to lose somebody like him,” Lajara says.

Now, the only trace of his brother that remains is his driver’s licence. The upper left-hand corner of the licence is gone, and the picture is faded. Lajara leaves it with a friend for safekeeping when he is out hunting for wood and Winston.

He gazes at the card in his hand. “When I want to see him, I just stare at his picture.”

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The world’s chemical weapons watchdog has adopted a final roadmap for ridding Syria of its arsenal by mid-2014, hours before a deadline expired, a spokesman says.

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“The plan is adopted,” Christian Chartier, a spokesman for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), told AFP on Friday after a meeting of its 41-member Executive Council in The Hague.

Friday was the deadline for the OPCW to agree “destruction milestones” for the more than 1000 tonnes of dangerous chemicals in Syria, according to the terms of a US-Russian deal that headed off US military strikes on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The talks at OPCW headquarters in The Hague broke off twice before agreement was reached, as delegates thrashed out the final draft.

A team of UN-OPCW inspectors has been on the ground since October checking Syria’s weapons and facilities.

Destruction of declared chemical weapons production facilities was completed last month and all chemicals and precursors placed under seal, the OPCW said last month ahead of a November 1 deadline backed by a UN Security Council resolution.

Inspectors are working “in an active war zone, in an extreme security situation,” Sigrid Kaag, the joint OPCW-UN mission coordinator, told at Friday’s OPCW meeting.

The joint Russian-US Syrian chemical weapons disarmament plan was endorsed by the UN Security Council in September to head off military strikes in retaliation for the regime’s alleged use of the weapons against its own people after a chemical attack against a Damascus suburb in August left hundreds dead.

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Scotland’s interim head coach Scott Johnson has urged his side to play without fear when they tackle South Africa at Murrayfield on Sunday.

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Scotland lost 30-17 to the Springboks on their tour of South Africa in June, having let an 11-point lead slip, but Johnson says they have no reason to feel intimidated by Heyneke Meyer’s side.

“We should be respectful of South Africa but fearing them is different,” Johnson said on Saturday.

“Rugby is a combative sport and we want people to be on edge. They are a pretty good side and we respect that. But fear is the wrong word. On edge is better.”

Scotland began their end-of-year campaign with a 42-17 defeat of Japan but the side that faces South Africa – 24-15 victors over Wales last weekend – will feature six changes.

South Africa’s line-up has far more experience at international level but Johnson says there is no point denying inexperienced players an opportunity to test themselves against the world’s top sides.

“We are on a different phase to the likes of the Springboks,” he told PA.

“For us it is a good chance to see guys. We have still got a lot of players sitting on the bench injured, so it gives others an opportunity.

“But part of the phase we are on is about finding out what some of those other guys are about.”

With Bakkies Botha back in the Springboks XV after a two-year absence, Johnson wants his side to focus on taking down South Africa’s ball carriers as swiftly as possible.

“Putting big men to the ground early is the area we really need to be sharp at. If they get a roll on, that’s their game and we need to stop that,” said the Australian.

South Africa captain Jean de Villiers, meanwhile, says his side have learnt their lesson from the last encounter between the teams, when the Springboks had to fight back from 17-6 down in Nelspruit.

“It has relevance in that it is history,” he said.

“It is over for us. In preparation for this week we will have got a bit of confidence out of the things that went well in that game, but also recognise our shortcomings and what we need to improve on.”

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The match was delayed due to rain and initially reduced by seven overs before a further interruption during the Sri Lanka innings curtailed it to 33 overs each.

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A fine opening partnership of 91 off 86 balls from Sri Lanka’s experienced batters Mahela Jayawardene and Dilshan helped them post a challenging total of 211-8.

Dilshan completed his third half-century of the series scoring 53 off 50 balls, including eight fours, to take the man-of-the-series award.

Jayawardene, promoted up the order to make way for all-rounder Thisara Perera, scored a fluent run a ball 46 with eight fours.

New Zealand faced a tall order on a slow and turning pitch and found themselves in deep trouble when spinners Sachitra Senanayake and Rangana Herath reduced them to 63-6 in 19 overs.

Senanayake who opened the bowling took two top-order wickets for 14 runs to take the man-of-the-match award.

Nathan McCullum, in partnership with James Neesham, gave New Zealand some hope with an unbroken stand of 63 off 36 balls.

Yet despite that brave effort, they were still trailing under the D/L method on 126-6 after 25 overs when the umpires called off the game for bad light amid protests from the two New Zealand batsmen

Neesham was unbeaten on 42 and McCullum on 35 off 19 balls.

“We had high hopes of winning the series 2-0, but to walk away 1-1, we sort of feel empty to tell you the truth because I felt that we had a great opportunity to win but due to circumstances it wasn’t to be,” said New Zealand stand-in captain Kyle Mills.

“You have a scheduled day’s play for a day game but the scheduled close of the game is after sunset when it is not possible to play.

“It doesn’t sound like common sense to me especially when we fought our way back and got ourselves into a position to potentially win it.

“We were in a better position today than we were in the last game which we won,” he said.

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said it was too dark to carry on and his fielders had difficulty seeing the ball.

“The light was terrible to be honest, the fielders couldn’t actually pick up the ball,” said Mathews.

“They (New Zealand) obviously wanted to carry on because they wanted to bat through to win but it was getting very dark and unsafe,” he added.

The first match was abandoned due to rain and New Zealand won the second by four wickets under Duckworth/Lewis.

The two teams will meet again in a two-match Twenty20 series in Pallekele on November 19 and 21.

(Editing by Toby Davis)

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The Six Nations champions had gone 11 end-of-year tests without a home victory, but they ended that run in clinical fashion against the Pumas despite having two players sent to the sin-bin.

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Mike Phillips and George North scored first half tries, while Leigh Halfpenny kicked 13 points in the opening period.

Argentine flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez did pull a penalty back for the visitors, but it was Wales who led 23-3 at the break.

Halfpenny and Sanchez traded penalties at the start of the second period, before Toby Faletau and replacement hooker Ken Owens touched down.

Welsh kicking sensation Halfpenny converted both tries and another penalty to take his personal haul to 20 points.

Wales, who lost 26-12 at home to Argentina last year, dominated possession early and got the game’s first try when scrumhalf Phillips, without a club after being sacked by French club Bayonne, stole the ball from the grasp of flyhalf Sanchez and raced 80 metres to score.

Soon after, Wales, whose last home win at this time of year came against Argentina in 2009, were reduced to 14-men when Justin Tipuric was yellow-carded for a trip.

A further penalty extended their lead and with Tipuric back on the field Wales went further ahead as flying winger North touched down after a surging run.

Halfpenny’s boot kept the scoreboard ticking over and with Wales dominant on the counter-attack, the hosts produced another incisive breakaway as Faletau collected Liam Williams’s precision pass to extend the lead to 33-6.

Argentina looked beaten and they yielded their fourth try of the afternoon when their defence could not contain a catch-and-drive move from a lineout, allowing replacement hooker Owens to bundle his way over for his first try in a Welsh jersey.

(Writing by Michael Hann, Editing by Justin Palmer and Josh Reich)

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