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    Philippine Authorities Defend Typhoon Relief Efforts



    The Philippine government is defending its efforts to deliver assistance to victims of Typhoon Haiyan, many of whom have received little or no assistance since the deadly storm struck a week ago.

    Interior Secretary Mar Roxas says that in a situation like this, speed is of the utmost importance. Speaking Friday in the devastated city of Tacloban, he said that the need is massive, immediate and not everyone can be reached.

    Disaster relief chief Eduardo del Rosario told reporters Friday that the official death toll from the storm has risen to 3,621.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy launched a huge relief operation Thursday.

    The aircraft carrier USS George Washington and a contingent of seven supply ships began delivering water and emergency rations to Tacloban. The giant hospital ship USS Mercy is making emergency preparations to depart the United States and is expected to join the emergency flotilla within weeks, along with the British carrier HMS Illustrious.

    As U.S. helicopters sped food and water to the city, reconnaissance aircraft began charting the worst-hit areas.

    The deputy chief of mission for the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Brian Goldbeck, said he believes the aid distrubution is going well so far.





    "I think the key point here is that a large volume of assistance was pushed through to Tacloban. Now what's happening is that the MV-22s, the Ospreys [aircraft], together with the helicopters from George Washington carrier strike group, [are in operation] together with the Philippines' own helicopters. All of those assets are now moving resources from Tacloban to multiple points - I think 16 or 18 different drop points."



    The flow of relief supplies has been hampered by wrecked roadways and gasoline shortages. Officials say fuel supplies have been reduced further because gasoline sellers are fearful of rioting by an increasingly desperate population.

    Rescue personnel began the grim task of lowering unidentified bodies into a mass grave Thursday near Tacloban's city hall.

    United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos called the situation "dismal," with tens of thousands of people living in the open during monsoon-season rain and winds.

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