US Warships with big straws nearing, Japan ready 1,000 Troops 3 warships to the Philippines, UK in?

Philippines army soldiers and workers load an army truck with bags of rice to be distributed to typhoon survivors, at Tacloban airport. RTE

International aid trickles into Philippines in aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)

US officials have said logistical problems causing delays to aid reaching the typhoon-hit Philippines are easing. Meanwhile Philippine authorities have appealed for help as decaying bodies continue to line the streets.

A US aircraft carrier, flanked by three escort ships, were nearing the Philippines on Thursday. US officials voiced optimism that efforts to deliver large qualities of aid material would improve.

"I would say we are cautiously optimistic that we are starting to turn a corner on some of the logistics challenges," said one official who briefed reporters about the US response to the disaster.

The official said relief workers were now able to get more aid out of the airport in the flattened city of Tacloban, where supplies have been piling up. Speaking on condition of anonymity under rules set by the US administration, the official added that coordination at the airport and the opening of a road to the city, should further accelerate the distribution of relief supplies.

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"We are cautiously optimistic that that will be a pretty significant game-changer," he said.

The initial effort was "a lot like trying to squeeze an orange through a straw. We are now getting more straws, if you will, and bigger straws," he added.

The aircraft carrier USS George Washington is expected to arrive on Thursday evening. The carrier, which has 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft on board, will expand search-and-rescue operations, provide medical care and a platform for helicopters to move supplies to remote areas.

The number of US troops expected to be on the ground could also treble from 300, to more than 1,000 by the end of the week, officials, said.

Japan readies troops, naval ships for Philippines relief

According to Reuters news agency, Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters Tokyo is also preparing to send up to 1,000 troops as well as naval vessels and aircraft to assist relief efforts. If approved, it would be Japan's largest military deployment since World War Two.

The mission could be bigger than Japan's relief efforts after the 2004 tsunami devastated Indonesia's Aceh province.

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Japan has already donated $10m in aid to the Philippines where desperate typhoon survivors have struggled to get food, water and medicine nearly a week after the disaster.

A Ministry of Defense official said the government was considering sending three naval vessels.

Transport helicopters and aircraft would also be sent, the Asahi newspaper and Jiji news agency said.

The significantly expanded mission comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to ease limits on the military imposed by Japan's postwar, pacifist constitution.

A 25-strong emergency medical relief team as well as 50 troops from Japan are already in place.

Bodies 'creating atmosphere of fear'

At least 2,357 people were confirmed dead and 600,000 people displaced in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the central Philippines on November 8. The UN has indicated the death toll could be much higher; reporting up to 10,000 people could have been killed in Tacloban City alone.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has been under growing pressure to speed up the distribution of food, water and medicine to survivors, while scores of decaying bodies continue to line the streets.

There are still so many cadavers in so many areas. It's scary," Tacloban mayor Alfred Romualdez said.

"There would be a request from one community to collect five or 10 bodies and when we get there, there are 40," he said, adding that rescue teams were struggling to cope. "We need more manpower and more equipment," Romualdez said.

"I cannot use a truck to collect cadavers in the morning and then use it to distribute relief goods in the afternoon."

"Let's get the bodies out of the streets. They are creating an atmosphere of fear and depression," he added. -  

ccp/ch (DW, AFP, Reuters, AP, RTE, dpa)

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