World News

Relief Aid Picks Up for Desperate Survivors of Haiyan

The flow of relief aid has begun to pick up in the central Philippines, but thousands are still desperate for food and shelter five days after being displaced by Typhoon Haiyan.

In a sign of the growing desperation, eight people were killed Wednesday when a government warehouse holding stockpiles of rice collapsed after being stormed by a large group of survivors.

The incident near the almost-destroyed town of Tacloban came as the official death toll from the storm rose to at least 2,275. There are concerns the body count could grow much higher, as many remote areas had not even been reached.

VOA's Steve Herman, speaking from Manila, says the situation is still "quite grim" in Tacloban, but that relief supplies will soon start flowing faster.

"The Tacloban airport, which is a civilian airport, which is now only open to military aircraft, will be operating again 24 hours. That will essentially triple the amount of aircraft and humanitarian supplies going into Tacloban."

The USS George Washington aircraft carrier and four other U.S. ships arrive Wednesday, bringing helicopters and other aircraft needed to bring life-saving aid to remote areas. The carrier team will be able to produce millions of liters of drinking water daily.

U.S. Brigadier General Paul Kennedy, who is leading a group of U.S. Marines on the ground in Tacloban, says the "entire Pacific Command" is responding to the crisis.

"We have water purification units that are coming today. I won't give you the technical details of that but these are coming out of Japan. We have got expeditionary runway sets that are coming out, so that will include what we call a mini tower. It won't be an actual radar but it will be more than just a beacon to allow airplanes to land at night and then we have light sets that are going up today. So we can start doing 24-hour operations starting today."

Philippine President Benigno Aquino, sounding a note of optimism, on Tuesday told CNN the final toll could be significantly lower than the 10,000 figure initially given by local officials. 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.

The United Nations is asking international donors for $301 million to help typhoon survivors.

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