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 Pentagon says the carrier and four other ships arriving in the Leyte Gulf have the combined capacity to produce millions of liters of drinking water daily. They are transporting helicopters and other special aircraft needed to ferry life-saving supplies to remote areas.
U.S. Brigadier General Paul Kennedy is leading a group of U.S. Marines already on the ground in Tacloban. He spoke with VOA's Steve Herman at a media briefing at Villamore Airbase in Manila.
"He described the storm as essentially equivalent to a tsunami, with the strength of a tornado 50 miles wide, as he put it. He said that all along the coast, every single palm tree had been ripped out of the ground and so many areas are impassable by road."
General Kennedy told Herman the U.S. military Tuesday airlifted 50 tons of humanitarian supplies into Tacloban. He says aid is expected to pick up pace, with the re-opening of the city's small local airport.
"As of tonight, 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."
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.