The U.S. Navy is speeding relief to the typhoon-shattered central Philippines, with a giant aircraft carrier and supply ships to provide emergency aid to a population increasingly desperate for food and other basic necessities.
The Pentagon says the carrier USS George Washington and four other ships will arrive in the Leyte Gulf Wednesday, with the combined capacity to produce millions of liters of drinking water daily.
The aircraft carrier is transporting helicopters and vertical takeoff aircraft needed to ferry life-saving supplies to the city of Tacloban, which was devastated Friday by one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded. The city's small local airport is reported partially operational, but incapable of landing large fixed-wing jet aircraft on its small runways.
On Tuesday, the official death toll from Typhoon Haiyan reached 1,774. With thousands still missing and entire communities not heard from since the huge storm hit, officials initially said 10,000 people may have perished.
However, Philippine President Benigno Aquino, sounding a note of optimism, told CNN the final toll could be significantly lower.
Mr. Aquino spoke as stories of hunger, desperation and loss continued to trickle in from Tacloban.
The Manila Standard newspaper, under the headline "Mass Escape from Hell," said thousands of people frightened by post-storm anarchy in the city and sickened by the stench of decaying corpses, were awaiting flights to Manila Wednesday.
Local authorities said about 3,000 people have swarmed the airport since Monday night, fighting for a chance to board a single C-130 prop plane to Manila. But only a few hundred made it on board.
Authorities say the flow of relief supplies has been further hampered by clogged regional ports and wrecked roadways leading to Tacloban and surrounding areas.
Tens of millions of relief dollars have been pledged by a cluster of developed nations, ranging from Britain and other European governments to Canada, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea and the global banking group HSBC.