Typhoon Haiyan: Tacloban bustles with life as Philippines mourns the dead

TACLOBAN, Philippines (REUTERS) - The streets around Tacloban's biggest wet market bustled on Wednesday with residents rebuilding their shattered lives 12 days after the city was reduced to matchwood and rubble by one of the world's biggest typhoons.

Typhoon Haiyan smashed into the central Philippines on Nov 8, laying waste to just about everything in its path, killing more than 4,000 people and leaving four million displaced.

Bodies are still being pulled from under the debris in Tacloban, the once-scenic gateway to the Eastern Visayas that bore the brunt of the storm.

The city, capital of Leyte province, was without food or water for days, setting off a frenzy of looting, before roads were cleared and aid and supplies started to trickle back in.

There was palpable optimism amongst the muddy stalls early on Wednesday as people bought anything from fish and live chickens to milk formula and underwear.

A small girl glugged greedily on a large bottle of Coca-Cola as her mother laid out chillies and tomatoes on a board.

Vendor Lorana Cahedios, selling slices of pumpkin, had joined in the widespread looting of supermarkets and shops in those first desperate days.

"What we did was loot, because we were worried that we would have nothing to sell. But when we started selling what we looted - canned goods, groceries, anything - we were very happy that it all sold. Then we had hope," she said.

But it is still not business as usual.

Most goods were selling for at least double the normal price, down from triple prices a few days ago, shoppers and vendors said.

A medical equipment technician joined a crowd around a whole pig being carved up.

"It's very hard, but it's okay," he said. "At least there's something to buy now and we still have money to buy. If we don't have money, that'll be the problem. Perhaps in a month, we won't have any money left, because we don't even have jobs now." The International Labour Organization said five million workers had had their lives turned upside down in the central Philippines.

The shattered shell of the former meat market highlighted the long road back to normalcy.

Seventy-four-year-old butcher Jaime Ladios has been sleeping on his counter since the market was hit.

Too old to head out of town to find meat to sell, and with no contact or money from his family living in Japan, he has nothing to do but wait.

"I have been in this market since my youth. This has always been my job. Then I got married," he said.

"Now I am a widower. I'm alone."

Estimates of the death toll have varied widely over the past 12 days, but the government now estimates the toll at around 4,000. But the governor of Leyte reckons more than 4,000 people could have been killed in just his province alone.