U.S., Britain sending warships to help Philippine typhoon relief efforts
By Andrew R.C. Marshall and Manuel Mogato
The USS George Washington aircraft carrier should arrive in 48 to 72 hours, the Pentagon said, confirming a Reuters report.
A statement said crew from the George Washington, which carries some 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircrafts, were being recalled early from shore leave in Hong Kong and the ship was expected to be under way in the coming hours. Other U.S. Navy ships would also head to the Philippines, it said.
The Philippines has been overwhelmed by the scale of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest on record, which tore a path through islands in the central Philippines on Friday.
Rescue workers were trying to reach towns and villages on Tuesday that have been cut off, which could reveal the full extent of the loss of life and devastation from the disaster.
The arrival of the carrier and its aircraft will speed up the distribution of aid and ensure injured survivors can be evacuated to hospitals in unaffected parts of the country.
Britain is also sending a navy warship with equipment to make drinking water from seawater and a military transport aircraft, Prime Minister David Cameron said.
Death toll expected to rise
Officials in Tacloban, which bore the brunt of the storm, have said the death toll could be 10,000 in their city. There is grave concern for regions outside Tacloban.
“I think what worries us the most is that there are so many areas where we have no information from, and when we have this silence, it usually means the damage is even worse,” said Joseph Curry of the U.S. organisation Catholic Relief Services.
The “sheer size of the emergency” in the wake of the typhoon was testing relief efforts, he told NBC’s “Today” program on Monday, speaking from Manila.
John Ging, director of operations at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said “many places are strewn with dead bodies” that need to be buried quickly to prevent the outbreak of a public health disaster.
“We’re sadly expecting the worst as we get more and more access,” Ging told reporters at the United Nations in New York.
Compounding the misery for survivors, a depression is due to bring rain to the central and southern Philippines on Tuesday, the weather bureau said.
President Benigno Aquino declared a state of national calamity and deployed hundreds of soldiers in Tacloban to quell looting. Tacloban’s administration appeared to be in disarray as city and hospital workers focused on saving their own families and securing food.
Nevertheless, relief supplies were getting into the once-vibrant port city of 220,000.
Aid trucks from the airport struggled to enter because of the stream of people and vehicles leaving. On motorbikes, trucks or by foot, people clogged the road to the airport, holding scarves to their faces to blot out the stench of bodies.
Hundreds have left on cargo planes to the capital Manila or the second-biggest city of Cebu, with many more sleeping rough overnight at the wrecked terminal building.
Reuters journalists travelled into the city on a government aid truck which was guarded by soldiers with assault rifles. “It’s risky,” said Jewel Ray Marcia, an army lieutenant. “People are angry. They are going out of their minds.”
Relief efforts picking up
International relief efforts have begun to pick up, with dozens of countries and organizations pledging tens of millions of dollars in aid.
Operations have been hampered because roads, airports and bridges were destroyed or covered in wreckage by surging waves and winds of up to 235 mph.
About 660,000 people were displaced and many have no access to food, water or medicine, the United Nations said.
U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos, who is travelling to the Philippines, released $25 million for aid relief on Monday from the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund.
Amos and the Philippines government are due to launch an appeal and action plan on Tuesday to deal with the disaster.
Aquino’s declaration of a state of national calamity will allow the government to use state funds for relief and to control prices. He said the government had set aside $432.97 million for rehabilitation.
Additional U.S. military forces also arrived in the Philippines on Monday to bolster relief efforts, officials said, with U.S. military cargo planes transporting food, medical supplies and water for victims.
(Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco and Karen Lema in Manila, Phil Stewart in Washington, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Belinda Goldsmith in London.)