Typhoon Haiyan: US carrier boosts Philippines relief effort

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes: "Progress is being made"

The relief operation in the central Philippines to help those affected by Typhoon Haiyan is making progress following the arrival of a US aircraft carrier and its escort of two cruisers.

More victims are receiving help but a BBC correspondent at the scene says there is still no large-scale food distribution taking place.

The first mass burials have been carried out in Tacloban.

The confirmed death toll, more than 2,300, is expected to continue rising.

More than 11 million people have been affected by the typhoon, according to the UN.

Unprecedented

The top US commander in the Philippines told the BBC that US military support would be on an unprecedented scale.

The USS George Washington, carrying 5,000 crew and moored off the east of Samar island, will expand search-and-rescue operations and provide a platform for helicopters to move supplies, the White House said.

Two US destroyers are already in the Philippines and other US vessels are expected to arrive in about a week, the US Navy said.

Pallets loaded with food and water have been taken from the aircraft carrier to Tacloban, the capital of badly hit Leyte province, and Guiuan, which was also devastated by the typhoon, on Samar's east coast.

US troops preparing relief supplies for survivors of the Philippines typhoon, Tacloban 14 November 2013 The big international aid operation is being given a further boost by the arrival of a US aircraft carrier
Philippines typhoon victims queue for food in Tacloban, 14 November 2013 Survivors have been forming long queues in the worst hit areas to collect food and water
Devastated coastal town on eastern Samar Island, 14 November 2013 Aid officials are trying to gain a more accurate picture of the typhoon damage from the air
Damaged church in Tacloban, Philippines, 14 November 2013 Many buildings were flattened by the storm and others heavily damaged including this church in Tacloban

US Marine Brigadier General Paul Kennedy told BBC Radio 5 live that the US aid effort was being stepped up to a level that has "probably never been applied" to a humanitarian crisis.

The presence of the USS George Washington is expected to triple the number of available helicopters, which can also deliver hundreds of thousands of gallons of water every day.

Food, water and medical help are beginning to reach residents of Tacloban as soldiers clear roads blocked by debris.

But thousands of people continued to line up at the city's airport on Thursday to escape the difficult conditions.

Aid at a glance

Asian Development Bank: $500m (£312m) emergency loans and $23m in grants

Australia: A$30m ($28m, £17m) package, including aircraft, medical staff, shelter materials, water containers and hygiene kits

China: 10m yuan ($1.6m; £1m) in relief goods plus $200,000 (£120,000) from government and Red Cross

European Commission: $11m (£6.8m)

Indonesia: Logistical aid including aircraft, food, generators and medicine

Japan: $10m (£6.2m), including tents and blankets. Pledged up to 1,000 soldiers, 25-person medical team already sent

South Korea: $5m (£3.1m) plus a 40-strong medical team

UAE: $10m (£6.2m) in humanitarian aid

UK: $32m (£20m) aid package, sending aircraft carrier, destroyer and large transport aircraft

US: $20m (£12.4m) in humanitarian aid, 300 military personnel, aircraft carrier and other ships, military aircraft plus logistics support

Donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC)

Many of the dozens of bodies which have been lying in the open since Haiyan struck are now being cleared from the streets and buried.

The first of several hundred bodies were interred in a mass grave in Tacloban after samples were taken to enable identification, the authorities told AP.

Philippine Health Minister Enrique Ona told the BBC that international criticism of the government's relief efforts was "unkind".

He said the final death toll was likely to be "significantly lower" than an early estimate of 10,000, but warned that it was unlikely all victims would be identified.

Looting

The full extent of what is needed to help survivors has yet to emerge as aid workers struggle to reach more isolated areas.

Guiuan, a town of 45,000, was heavily damaged by the typhoon. French aid charity MSF described the situation there as bleak.

But the BBC's Andrew Harding, reporting from near Guiuan, says after earlier problems with looting, some supplies are now getting in.

Other countries have also pledged help in the shape of financial aid, relief supplies or emergency teams.

The UK government is sending the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, more than £20m ($32m) in aid, a team of medical experts and an RAF transport aircraft.

Start Quote

China's latest pledge of $1.6m still looks pointedly small besides its previous aid packages to other nations - even to Japan, with whom it is also squabbling over territory”

End Quote

Japan is also preparing to send up to 1,000 troops as well as naval vessels and aircraft, Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said.

China - which is engaged in a territorial dispute with the Philippines - is sending 10m yuan ($1.6m; £1m) in relief goods.

Its initial pledge of $200,000 (£120,000) from the government and Chinese Red Cross combined drew criticism in US media, but was also condemned by some Chinese internet users as excessive.

Unprecedented logistics

Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded on land, hit the Philippines last Friday.

Tacloban's airport was left in ruins by the storm, but in recent days US military planes have been arriving with World Food Programme supplies. A French-Belgian field hospital has also been set up.

Manila sent troops to Tacloban to keep law and order, but correspondents say there is a growing sense of panic.

In some areas survivors have resorted to digging up water pipes and extracting fuel from reservoirs at petrol stations.

Health experts have warned that the worst-affected areas are entering a peak danger period for the spread of infectious diseases.

USS George Washington

USS George Washington

Crew: 6,102

Range: Unlimited

Aircraft: Carrier Air Wing 5 consists of 90 aircraft, includes Seahawk helicopters which will be used to fly supplies in to inaccessible areas

Carrier group: Cruisers USS Antietam and USS Cowpens and destroyer USS Mustin accompany the carrier. Supply ship USNS Charles Drew also heading for the Philippines

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