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US Carrier Group to Arrive in Philippines Wednesday

The USS George Washington arrives Wednesday in the typhoon-hit central Philippines to help bring aid to many remain who remain desperate for food and other basic necessities.

The aircraft carrier is helping rush emergency supplies to the city of Tacloban, which was almost completely destroyed Friday by one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded.

The carrier is part of a team of ships that will be able to produce millions of liters of drinking water daily. They are also carrying helicopters and other special aircraft needed to bring life-saving supplies to remote areas.

VOA's Steve Herman, speaking from Manila, says the situation is still "quite grim" in Tacloban, but that relief 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 help could not come soon enough for many survivors, hundreds of thousands of whom remain homeless, five days after the storm. Many have little or no access to food and water, and some have turned to looting to survive.

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

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 wont 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."

On Wednesday, the official death toll from Typhoon Haiyan reached 1,883. 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.

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

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