Typhoon Haiyan: US carrier boosts Philippines relief effort

  • 14 November 2013
  • From the section Asia

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.


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.

Image caption The big international aid operation is being given a further boost by the arrival of a US aircraft carrier
Image caption Survivors have been forming long queues in the worst hit areas to collect food and water
Image caption Aid officials are trying to gain a more accurate picture of the typhoon damage from the air
Image caption 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.

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.


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.

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.

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