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243 US Marines land in Tacloban

In this photo released by the US Marine Corps, Marines are ready to deploy aboard a KC-130J Hercules aircraft on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan. AFP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—A team of 243 US Marines has landed in Tacloban City on Leyte island after Washington ordered urgent emergency efforts in response to Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: “Haiyan”), which has destroyed entire coastal communities.

The US military presence “will be growing every day,” Gen. Paul Kennedy, head of the contingent, said, adding that it will likely expand to about 1,500 to 2,000 troops in the coming days.

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Japan is ready to send as many as 1,000 men to the Philippines to help with relief efforts, a defense ministry spokesperson announced on Wednesday.

The announcement came a day after Tokyo dispatched 50 members of its Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to assist in medical support and transport operations following Manila’s request for assistance.

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Three naval ships and an unspecified number of aircraft would accompany the proposed contingent, Jiji Press news agency reported.

“We will continue consulting with the Philippine government about the size of the deployment it may need,” said the defense ministry official.

If Tokyo sends a 1,000-man contingent, it would be the largest single relief operation team sent abroad by the SDF, Japan’s de facto military that must adhere to the country’s postwar pacifist constitution.

Obama phone call

US President Barack Obama made a phone call to President Aquino on Wednesday “to express deep condolences on behalf of the American people for the lives lost and damage caused by Supertyphoon Yolanda, one of the strongest storms to ever hit land.”

The US president talked to Aquino about the mobilization of more US resources to speed up aid delivery in worst-hit areas, including places still isolated by debris and the lack of communication lines.

“President Obama discussed with President Aquino the need for a speedy assessment of what further American resources would be most helpful to assist in the Philippine recovery effort. In the days ahead, the United States will continue to work with the Philippines to deliver whatever help we can, as quickly as possible,” said a readout of the conversation that the White House issued.

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The overall financial cost of the destruction was hard to assess. Initial estimates varied widely, with a report from German-based Cedim Forensic Disaster Analysis putting the total at $8 billion to $19 billion.

Queen Elizabeth

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth also issued a message of condolences yesterday.

“I was deeply saddened to hear of the loss of life and devastation caused by the typhoon that hit the Philippines at the weekend. Prince Philip joins me in offering our heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families at this difficult time. Our deepest sympathies go out to all those whose lives have been affected,” her message read.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also extended his condolences to Aquino.

Israeli President Shimon Peres sent a letter to the Philippine President to convey his nation’s deepest condolences. Israel earlier sent a contingent of 200 doctors, nurses and paramedics to affected areas.

36 nations

Some 36 nations have so far pledged assistance in cash, in kind or in the form of medical, search-and-rescue and civil security teams, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Wednesday.

The DFA said the total amount of the financial assistance had reached P3.848 billion. All pledges are coursed through the aid agencies of the respective donor countries or their chosen NGOs.

US amphibious ships

As part of US assistance, the USS Germantown and USS Ashland—amphibious warfare vessels designed to transport and launch landing craft and vehicles—have been ordered to depart for the Philippines from the southern Japanese port of Sasebo.

Another vessel, the USS Denver, an amphibious transport dock ship, has been placed on standby to prepare to deploy as well.

All three vessels have landing decks that can serve helicopters as well as medical facilities and the capability to produce desalinated water.

The move will ferry hundreds of US Marines to the storm-ravaged country as well as vehicles able to operate in flooded, debris-strewn areas, officials said.

On Monday evening, the Pentagon announced it was dispatching the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and its accompanying cruisers and destroyers, including its fleet of 11 helicopters and dozens of airplanes. The carrier group is due to arrive on Thursday or Friday.

As of Monday, US Osprey and KC-130 aircraft had delivered 48 metric tons of food, water and other emergency supplies to the Philippines government, officials said.

$523M from ADB

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced on Wednesday $523 million in disaster assistance, as authorities continued to struggle to bring relief to millions of victims.

The Manila-based lender said it would provide $23 million in grants to address immediate needs, the latest in a growing list of offers to the Philippines from around the world.

The ADB also stands ready to provide the Philippines with a $500-million emergency loan to help reconstruct communities flattened by the one of the strongest storms ever recorded.

“We are working in close collaboration with the government and all other international agencies to provide hope and rebuild the lives of more than 11 million people affected by what is being described as one of the Philippines’ worst ever natural disasters,” ADB president Takehiko Nakao said in a statement.

UN appeal

The United Nations has launched an appeal for more than $300 million in aid for some 11.3 million people affected by the calamity.

The amount would be enough to fund six months’ worth of food, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as urgent debris removal and protection of the most vulnerable.

The action plan covers food aid for some 3 million people, water, sanitation and hygiene facilities for some 500,000 people, restoration of health services for 9.8 million people, nutrition services for 100,000 children and 60,000 mothers, shelter and urgent household items for some 562,000 people, and livelihood for some 200,000 men and women.

Valerie Amos, UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, said the appeal did not take into account the P2.585 billion in total foreign aid so far pledged for the Philippines, which includes the P1 billion UN allocation announced on Tuesday.

Not alone

David Carden, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Manila, said, “You are not alone in this tragedy.”

The United Kingdom’s Disaster Emergency Committee, a coalition of 14 UK charities, has launched a public appeal for aid.

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said the monarch would contribute to Britain’s rescue appeal, which has raised £1.5 million ($2.4 million) in the 15 hours since it was launched on Tuesday.

The television appeal was set up by the Disasters Emergency Committee, a group of 14 UK aid organizations including Action Aid, British Red Cross, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief, Oxfam and Save the Children.

The government will match all donations up to £5 million, and on Monday announced it was sending a warship and transporter plane to help the relief operation.

The Department for International Development later revealed that the first of Britain’s several aid flights had landed in the Philippines late Tuesday.

A chartered Boeing 777 carrying 8,836 shelter kits landed in Cebu City, with food, water, medicines and other supplies to be delivered over the coming days and weeks.

“It will be followed rapidly by other basics like food and water purification kits, and the equipment needed to clear the way to get that aid to hard to reach communities,” said International Development Secretary Justine Greening.

In Canada, the government has announced a fund program in which the government will match every dollar donated by every Canadian.

Other donations

Here’s a list of other donations and aid from countries and organizations, supplementing supplies being flown in from elsewhere in the Philippines.

China: 10 million Renminbi (P73.2 million), including blankets and tents to support emergency shelter. This is on top of a $100,000 (P4.3 million) donation of the China Red Cross Society and the earlier Chinese government donation of $100,000 (P4.3 million).

Indonesia: $2 million in cash and emergency supplies, along with a transport plane packed with food, medicines, water filters and generators.

The Asean Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management: $500,000

Vietnam: $100,000

Mexico: $1 million

India: An aircraft with 15 tons of relief materials

Kuwait: $10 million

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement: $78 million

Aid from corporations: $10.5 million, according to an estimate by the US Chambers of Commerce—With wire reports

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TAGS: Diplomacy, Military, Philippines, Relief Efforts, Supertyphoon Yolanda, Tacloban, US Marines, world aid
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