Last updated: November 13, 2013 11:18 am

US commits more aid to Philippines relief effort

President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines said the number of people killed by typhoon Haiyan would be much lower than an early estimate of 10,000, as nations around the world offered resources to help the victims of the catastrophic storm.

As the US prepared to send more navy ships to join the international relief effort, Mr Aquino told CNN that the total number of fatalities would be closer to 2,500. But within hours of making the comment the official death toll was revised upwards to 2,275 with more than 20,000 people reported missing, according to the Philippine Red Cross.

“Ten thousand, I think, is too much . . . there was emotional drama involved with that particular estimate,” Mr Aquino said. “We’re hoping to be able to contact something like 29 municipalities left wherein we still have to establish their numbers, especially for the missing, but so far 2,000, about 2,500, is the number we are working on as far as deaths are concerned.”

As rescue efforts continued, more harrowing reports emerged of the chaos in the country with ANC television reporting that security forces exchanged fire with armed men amid widespread looting of shops in Leyte province. And eight people were crushed to death after thousands stormed the National Food Authority rice warehouse in the same region.

As the international community ramped up its efforts the US said it would send two ships from Japan – the USS Ashland and USS Germantown – to pick up marines in Okinawa and then sail to the Philippines to join the other US navy ships that are already en route to join the relief effort.

Captain Darryn James, a US navy spokesman, said the USS George Washington, an aircraft carrier that was diverted from a routine port call in Hong Kong, would arrive in the Philippines in about two days along with other ships in its fleet.

The UN has launched an appeal to raise $301m for the victims of the catastrophic storm, which has displaced more than 800,000 people in the country of 92m. More than 11m people have been affected by the devastating winds and storm surge that lashed the archipelago last Friday.

Countries have been offering aid to help the victims, many of whom are in areas that have not yet been reached because of poor infrastructure or storm damage.

The Asian Development Bank on Wednesday said it would provide more than $500m to help the Philippines meet immediate requirements.

Japan said it would provide Y60m ($603,000) worth of supplies, including plastic sheets and sleeping pads. Indonesia said it would donate $1m in cash to the relief effort and another $1m in food, aid, clothing and medicines. The Indonesian air force sent three Hercules C-130 transport aircraft to deliver the first portion of the aid on Wednesday morning, with more relief flights scheduled on Thursday.

Japan will also send about 1,000 troops to the affected areas, roughly matching the biggest ever deployment of the country’s Self-Defense Forces to Indonesia nine years ago, during the aftermath of the southeast Asian tsunami. Japanese companies, including Fast Retailing and Sumitomo Corp, have announced donations. Fast Retailing, owner of the Uniqlo brand, said it would provide T-shirts, underwear and cash to the value of about Y15m.

South Korea offered $5m in aid, as well as sending a 40-strong team to the typhoon-hit area on a military aircraft, a government spokesperson said. South Korea’s foreign ministry has set up an additional emergency response headquarters on the island of Cebu, and will consult Manila with a view to providing further support.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the country had donated $200,000 for “relief work” and was sending two C-130 military cargo aircraft of food, blankets and tents donated by local charities. Many Filipinos work in Taiwan, but relations between the two nations are tense because of territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

China has offered to provide $200,000 to the Philippines – with half of the money coming via the Red Cross – to help the relief effort. The offer comes amid a long-running dispute over contested islands in the South China Sea claimed by both countries.

“We express deep sympathy with the Philippines for their huge property losses and casualties and we have extended sincere solicitude,” the foreign ministry said on Tuesday. “We are willing to consider providing more humanitarian support and assistance to the Philippines within our capacity.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it needed $94.6m, and 14 UK-based charities grouped under the Disasters Emergency Committee have also launched an appeal. Rescue workers have compared the intensity of the devastation with the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

“It’s a scene of utter devastation,” said Richard Gordon, the chairman of the Philippine Red Cross. “Many people have lost their homes and are in desperate need of food, shelter and water. It will be a long road to recovery.”

Many remote areas, such as Guiuan on Samar island, have yet to be reached and so the full impact is still unknown.

Additional reporting by Ben McLannahan in Tokyo, Sarah Mishkin in Taipei, Simon Mundy in Seoul, Ben Bland and agencies

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