- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Food, water and medical supplies trickled into hard-hit areas of the Philippines on Tuesday, as the U.S. dispatched an aircraft carrier group to lend aid and the U.N. appealed for $301 million in emergency assistance to help survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, which killed at least 2,000 people.

The typhoon, which made landfall Friday in the central Philippines and is thought to be one of the most powerful storms to ever hit land, destroyed roads, swamped buildings, downed power lines and crippled the small airport in the coastal city of Tacloban.

“The access challenges are a huge obstacle right now,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s foreign disaster assistance office.

In Manila, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said rescuers “have not been able to get into the remote communities.”

The U.N. is launching an appeal for $301 million to help the more than 11 million people estimated to be affected by the storm.

“Even in Tacloban, because of the debris and the difficulties with logistics and so on, we have not been able to get in the level of supply that we would want to. We are going to do as much as we can to bring in more,” Ms. Amos said. Her office said she plans to visit the city.

Many survivors, including those injured by the storm, have crowded into Tacloban’s airport hoping for an opportunity to be evacuated.

Noting the storm debris and wrecked vehicles, Mr. Konyndyk said “there just aren’t that many ways into Tacloban city for an aid pipeline We are primarily dependent on the airport, which is damaged and has limited capacity even under the best of circumstances.”

“Perhaps the most urgent need is [air]lift,” said Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. “The Philippines lacks the ability to reach remote and disparate areas quickly and with large quantities of supplies.”

Edwin Lacierda, spokesman for Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III, said relief goods are getting into the city, and the supply should increase now that the airport and a bridge to the island were open.

“We are not going to leave one person behind — one living person behind,” he said. “We will help, no matter how difficult, no matter how inaccessible.”

Tacloban, a city of about 220,000 people on Leyte island, bore the full force of the winds and the tsunamilike storm surges. Most of the city is in ruins, a tangled mess of destroyed houses, cars and trees. Malls, garages and shops have all been stripped of food and water by hungry residents.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which was in Hong Kong on a port visit, to the Philippines. The aircraft carrier is accompanied by the cruisers USS Antietam and USS Cowpens, and the destroyer USS Mustin. The supply ship USNS Charles Drew is also on its way to the region, as is USS Lassen.

Mr. Hagel ordered the ships to make the “best speed for the Philippines,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little. The ships are not expected to arrive in the region until Thursday.

The USS George Washington is carrying more than 80 aircraft capable of providing humanitarian assistance.

In addition, the Pentagon could send thousands of Marines to help recovery efforts. Currently, about 300 Marines are providing disaster relief, but that number could grow to as many as 2,000 or more in the days to come, a senior Marine official said on background.

So far, Marines have delivered 107,000 pounds of relief supplies to the Philippines, including potable water, food, shelter, hygiene products and medical supplies.

The U.S. also is providing $20 million in immediate aid through USAID.

“The remote and dispersed terrain and the utter destructive capacity of this typhoon will fully tax the U.S. and international response,” said Mr. Cronin, who served as the third-ranking official at USAID in the George W. Bush administration.

Kristina Wong contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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