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UN: $301 Million Needed for Philippines Typhoon Relief

The United Nations is asking for $301 million to provide typhoon relief efforts in the central Philippines, where 10,000 people are feared dead and many more are displaced.

The appeal was made Tuesday by U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who is visiting the region. Amos said the international response has been strong, but more needs to be done.

The U.N. says 660,000 people were displaced by Typhoon Haiyan, which plowed through the remote region late last week with historically powerful winds and tsunami-like waves.

Four days later, many have no access to food, water or medicine. Some of the most remote areas remained unreached. In the worst-hit city, Tacloban, widespread looting has been reported and dozens of rotting corpses lie in the streets.

Though aid distribution has been slow, international relief efforts have begun to pick up.

The Pentagon said late Monday it sent the USS George Washington to the region. The aircraft carrier, with 5,000 sailors and 80 aircraft on board, is expected to arrive in about two days.

Nearly 200 U.S. forces are already on the ground helping Philippine authorities with relief efforts. Captain Cassandra Gesecki is a PIO with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

"Right now we have about 180 U.S. forces on the ground. The majority of it are Marines from Okinawa, but we're also supplemented here by Army, there's a few Navy and Air Force folks helping us out. Whatever the Philippines need and whatever they request is what we're trying to provide for them."

Captain Gesecki tells VOA the extent of the damage makes it hard to deliver aid to where it is needed most.

"There's trees uprooted, no limbs, no rooftops, no walls. You know, the roads are completely untenable. You can't get through anywhere. Which is difficult, because if you can fly the supplies in, it makes it difficult getting them where they need to go."

She says her unit is using a mixture of KC-130 cargo planes and the MD-22 Osprey hybrid aircraft, which is able to take off and land vertically, making it easier to reach remote areas.

The Philippines has already sent troops to the fishing village of Tacloban, where local officials fear as many as 10,000 people may be dead. But as of Tuesday, aid distribution was slow, since soldiers there mainly worked to prevent looting and restore calm.

Photographs and video circulating showed hundreds of people returning from the hills around Tacloban, only to find mounds of wreckage where their homes had stood in the once-thriving city of 220,000 residents.

Other amateur footage showed streets that still are strewn with decomposing bodies, and dazed residents slogging through flattened neighborhoods looking for signs of life.

Elizabeth Tromans with Catholic Relief Services says there is "total devastation" in Tacloban, located on the eastern side of the island of Leyte. But she tells VOA that is just the beginning.

"We're just starting to hear more and more about the devastation outside of the city. The devastation is also really widespread even on the western side of the island."

Tromans says many residents prepared emergency goods and took shelter ahead of the storm. But she said the storm was so powerful that even many of the most well-prepared are now left with nothing.

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