International community steps up relief efforts for typhoon-hit Philippines | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 12.11.2013
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International community steps up relief efforts for typhoon-hit Philippines

The United States has boosted international relief efforts to the typhoon-hit Philippines. The nation's president has declared a state of "national calamity," with at least 10,000 people feared dead.

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Philippines assess storm damage

The United States has ordered an aircraft carrier and other Navy ships to head to the Philippines to assist relief efforts in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, the Pentagon said Monday.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel requested that the USS George Washington depart Hong Kong, where it has been based for a port visit, and "make best speed for the Republic of the Philippines," spokesman George Little said.

The carrier, which has 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft aboard, is to be accompanied by five other ships to provide humanitarian assistance, supplies and medical care, Little added. It is expected to arrive in the disaster-hit archipelago within 48-72 hours.

The move will further scale up air operations to assist ground teams who are struggling to reach areas left cut off by the powerful typhoon, which hit on Friday.

It follows Britain's pledge to send a Royal Navy warship and a transporter plane as well as a total of 10 million pounds' (roughly 11.9 million euros, $16 million) worth of humanitarian assistance.

The US Agency for International Development has pledged 20 million dollars in relief, including shelter materials and hygiene kits, and 55 metric tons of food.

Australia, Germany, Taiwan, Japan, New Zealand and Vietnam have also joined a number of organizations, including the United Nations and the European Commission, who have promised millions in emergency aid.

Mounting death toll

The island province of Leyte was worst hit by the typhoon, which struck with winds of around 315 kilometers (195 miles) per hour. Officials in Leyte's capital Tacloban reported that at least 10,000 people are feared dead in that city alone.

The United Nations has warned that the death toll nationwide could jump significantly in the coming days, with John Ging, UN humanitarian operations director, reporting that the organization was "expecting the worst" on the final body count.

"Many places are strewn with dead bodies," Ging told a news conference at UN headquarters, confirming estimates that "over 10,000 people perished."

"The scale of devastation is massive and therefore it will require the mobilization of a massive response," Ging said, praising the Philippines government response to the disaster as "very impressive" so far.

He cited the desperate need for clean drinking water and food for survivors of the disaster, adding that the United Nations will appeal for significant international aid for victims on Tuesday.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos was also expected in Manila on Tuesday to run a joint relief operation by the United Nations and private groups.

More than nine million people over 41 provinces in the Philippines have been affected by Haiyan. Many of the dead were killed by tsunami-like waves that reached a height of up to five meters (16 feet). More than 600,000 people have been displaced.

Philippines President Benigno Aquino declared "a state of national calamity," on Monday, deploying hundreds of soldiers in Tacloban to quell looting.

"My only appeal is for people to be calm, pray, cooperate and help each other. These are the only ways we will overcome from this tragedy," he said in a televised address.

ccp/ch (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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