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Beckham visits typhoon-devastated Philippine city

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BULLIT MARQUEZ | February 13, 2014 09:53 AM EST | AP


TACLOBAN, Philippines (AP) — David Beckham visited the typhoon-devastated Philippine city of Tacloban on Thursday as part of UNICEF's relief efforts.

The central city is still struggling to deal with the impact of super Typhoon Haiyan which struck Nov. 8, killing more than 6,200 people and leaving tens of thousands still homeless.

The retired football star was welcomed by hundreds of survivors who have been living in United Nations-provided tents outside a stadium.

"I was humbled to visit Tacloban and see how people are still so full of spirit despite the devastation they have suffered. Close to 6 million children are affected and many have lost loved ones," a UNICEF statement quoted Beckham as saying.

Beckham exchanged high-fives and posed for pictures with children inside a large white tent used as a classroom. Some showed him their art works.

He removed his shoes on entering a tent where a family is living, stroking a sleeping infant's hands as he spoke with family members. Officials and UNICEF staff did not say what he and the family members talked about during his 30-minute stay.

It was Beckham's second trip to the Philippines as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. He toured a shelter for former street children in Manila during his first visit in 2011 and played an exhibition game with the Philippine national soccer team.

"He felt very touched by what happened and that he wanted to come back, not do anything else — no meeting, no media — just to focus on children and meet them, encourage them and see for himself the situation," Manila UNICEF spokeswoman Zafrin Chowdhury said.

Beckham also was scheduled to visit a World Food Program warehouse in nearby Palo town, which also was heavily devastated.

Beckham and his wife, Victoria, have donated designer clothes and shoes to help raise funds for the typhoon victims.

The storm displaced more than 4 million people in more than 40 provinces in the central Philippines. At least 1,700 are still missing.

Beckham's visit followed separate trips to Tacloban in December by teen heartthrob Justin Bieber, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Australian Foreign Minister Julia Bishop.

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Associated Press writers Jim Gomez and Oliver Teves in Manila contributed to this report.