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Relief efforts in the Philippines gather steam, a week after Typhoon Haiyan hit

Efforts to deliver aid to parts of the Philippines hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan a week ago are picking up steam. However the international aid effort remains patchy, with many of the victims still waiting for help.

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International aid starts reaching typhoon victims

The Philippines' interior secretary, Mar Roxas, said on Friday that trucks carrying emergency supplies had reached 30 out of 40 towns in Leyte province, which bore the brunt of the storm, which barrelled across the archipelago one week ago.

"Our relief effort is progressing, although it's still at a slow pace," Roxas told reporters in Tacloban, the provincial capital. "Every day is better than yesterday. There is nothing fast enough in a situation like this because so many were affected and infrastructure damaged."

A spokesperson for President Benigno Aquino also said the pace of the aid effort had increased over the last couple of days.

"Everybody's pushing, faster, faster, faster," Abigail Valte told reporters in Manila. "We need to provide support for about 1.357 million people and that means putting out 140,000 food packs every day."

Aid efforts have been helped by the arrival of an American navy flotilla, including the aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington on Thursday. Since then helicopters brought in on the aircraft carrier have been delivering drinking water and medicines to remote areas levelled by last Friday's typhoon.

The acting US ambassador to the Philippines, Brian Goldbeck, said on Friday that the Americans had so far helped move 174,000 kilograms (338,000 pounds) of emergency supplies to people in need. He said they had also evacuated nearly 3,000 people.

Also on Friday, a Norwegian merchant navy training ship arrived at Tacloban, carrying 40 tons of rice and medical equipment provided by the United Nations' World Food Programme.

Following confusion over the death toll which emerged on Thursday, Philippine officials put the number of confirmed dead at 3,621 on Friday.

On Thursday, the United Nations in New York had put the number at almost 4,500. One day later, the director of the operational divisions at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, John Ging, explained that the 4,460 figure had been an estimate, as opposed to a confirmed death toll.

pfd/ch (Reuters, dpa)

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