US officials have said logistical problems causing delays to aid reaching the typhoon-hit Philippines are easing. Meanwhile Philippine authorities have appealed for help as decaying bodies continue to line the streets.
A US aircraft carrier, flanked by three escort ships, was nearing the Philippines on Thursday. US officials voiced optimism that efforts to deliver large quantities of aid material would improve in the aftermath of the powerful Typhoon Haiyan which left more than 2,000 people dead.
"I would say we are cautiously optimistic that we are starting to turn a corner on some of the logistics challenges," said one official who briefed reporters about the US response to the disaster.
The official said relief workers were now able to get more aid out of the airport in the flattened city of Tacloban, where supplies have been piling up. Speaking on condition of anonymity under rules set by the US administration, the official added that coordination at the airport and the opening of a road to the city, should further accelerate the distribution of relief supplies.
The aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which has 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft on board, is expected to arrive on Thursday evening.
Four additional M-22 Osprey helicopters have also left a US airbase in Japan, bringing the total number assisting relief efforts to eight. They join a eight C-130 transport planes in action.
Meanwhile the number of US troops expected to be on the ground could also treble from 300, to more than 1,000 by the end of the week, officials said.
According to Reuters news agency, Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters Tokyo was also preparing to send up to 1,000 troops as well as naval vessels and aircraft to assist relief efforts. If approved, it would be Japan's largest military deployment since World War Two.
Bodies 'creating atmosphere of fear'
At least 2,357 people were confirmed dead and 600,000 people displaced in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the central Philippines on November 8. The UN has indicated the death toll could be much higher, reporting up to 10,000 people could have been killed in Tacloban city alone.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino has been under growing pressure to speed up the distribution of food, water and medicine to survivors, while scores of decaying bodies continue to line the streets.
There are still so many cadavers in so many areas. It's scary," Tacloban mayor Alfred Romualdez said.
"There would be a request from one community to collect five or 10 bodies and when we get there, there are 40," he said, adding that rescue teams were struggling to cope. "We need more manpower and more equipment," Romualdez said.
"I cannot use a truck to collect cadavers in the morning and then use it to distribute relief goods in the afternoon."
"Let's get the bodies out of the streets. They are creating an atmosphere of fear and depression," he added.
International aid distributed
International pledges of aid continue to role in. At least $88 million (66 million euros) in emergency aid has been pledged by the international community so far.
On Wednesday US President Barack Obama urged US citizens to dig deep in the wake of "one of the strongest storms ever recorded," directing them to a White House website with links to groups providing aid.
The UN's World Food Program distributed rice and other items to nearly 50,000 people in the Tacloban area Wednesday. The first airlift of hygiene kits and plastic sheeting from the US Agency for International Development was also distributed to help 10,000 families. A second consignment was due to arrive on Thursday.
Medecins San Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) has also announced that it would send eight planeloads of aid, in one of the biggest nongovernmental operations.
ccp/ch (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)