Progress has been reported in efforts to deliver aid to the victims of a devastating typhoon that hit parts of the Philippines almost a week ago. The first mass burial of victims of Typhoon Haiyan has also been held.
Around 300 of the victims were laid to rest on Thursday, with workers placing the corpses, covered in black body bags or wrapped in cloth into a mass grave in a cemetery outside of Tacloban, capital of Leyte province, which was hardest hit by the storm.
Rescue teams also continued to search through the destruction for more bodies, but this process was not going as quickly as officials would like.
Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said efforts to recover dead bodies was being hampered by the destruction caused by Haiyan.
"We do have a problem because of the debris," Gazmin said. "We started retrieving bodies two days after the typhoon ... We had to prioritize the living rather than the dead," he explained.
More than 2,000 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the typhoon, with nearly 600,000 having been displaced. According to the United Nations, more than 11 million people have been affected by the destruction caused byHaiyan when it struck eastern and central regions of the Philippines last Friday.
Aid efforts ramping up
Meanwhile, progress has been reported in efforts to deliver emergency aid to those in need.
Philippine soldiers distributed drinking water and rice from army trucks in Tacloban, while the head of the country's national disaster relief agency, Eduardo Del Rosario said the air force had begun airdropping aid packages to remote areas.
Also on Thursday, the American aircraft carrier USS George Washington arrived along with several other US vessels in Leyte Gulf, where they were expected to provide a significant boost to rescue and aid efforts.
"One of the best capabilities the Strike Group brings is our 21 helicopters," the commander of the George Washington Strike Group, Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery said in a statement. "These helicopters represent a good deal of lift to move emergency supplies around," he added.
Earlier, the United Nations' human aid chief, Valierie Amos, who toured Tacloban on Wednesday, admitted that the relief effort had taken too long to get going.
"I do feel that we have let people down," Amos said.
Germany on Thursday announced that it was increasing its pledge for emergency aid to 4-5 million euros ($6-5 million) from the previous 1.5 million. A statement from the Foreign Ministry in Berlin said Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had also pledged Germany's support in reconstruction efforts.
pfd/dr (AP, AFP, dpa)