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Aid relief picks up in the Philippines, begins to reach remote areas

International aid relief has begun to reach remote parts of the Philippines hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan. Distributing the aid has been a challenge in the country, where more than 4 million people have been displaced.

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The Philippines after the typhoon

Nine days after one of the strongest storms ever recorded ripped through the Philippines, the momentum of international aid distribution has begun to pick up. Food, water, medical supplies and basic necessities are being airlifted to isolated communities.

Since the arrival of the United States' USS George Washington aircraft carrier on Thursday, military helicopters have been airlifting supplies to remote areas such as Cabungaan, a village in the interior of Leyte province's Tanauan district where as many as 1,200 people were killed by the storm.

A British warship, the HMS Daring, is due to arrive on Sunday, followed by the helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious, the largest vessel in the British navy.

Japan has also confirmed it is sending its military's single largest aid deployment of almost 1,200 troops, three warships, 10 planes and six helicopters.

On Sunday, the Philippine government announced that 3,681 people had so far been confirmed dead in the disaster, with another 1,186 missing. They also said some 4 million people have been displaced by the catastrophe that hit the 600-kilometer (380-mile) stretch of islands.

The United Nations and other relief agencies have warned that the death toll would likely rise much higher over the coming months as a full assessment is made.

President Benigno Aquino, who faces criticism over his administration's preparation for the storm, toured some of the worst-hit areas and called for understanding of the logistical challenges.

"Please have patience. These affected areas are really spread out," Aquino said Sunday, adding, "Don't lose hope."

Victims turn to prayer

Amid relief operations, thousands of grieving survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the mainly Catholic Philippines gathered in the shells of ruined churches for Sunday prayer.

In Tacloban, one of the hardest-hit cities, hundreds gathered at the 124-year-old Santo Nino church, which had its roof ripped off during the storm.

About 300 people in Guiuan, the first town to be hit by the typhoon, attended mass in the courtyard of the ruined 400-year-old Immaculate Conception church.

Many churches have also been converted into shelters and temporary clinics for the wounded.

About 80 percent of the Philippines' 90 million people are Catholic, the largest in Asia by far and a legacy of Spanish colonial rule.

hc/mkg (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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