Concerns grow over pace of aid to Phillipines
Cebu, Philippines • A U.S. aircraft carrier headed to the Philippines on Tuesday on an emergency mission to help the relief effort there as the situation on the islands became increasingly desperate, with food and water supplies running low and bodies lying uncollected in the streets of at least one devastated city.
The USS George Washington, which carries 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft, left a port visit in Hong Kong, its crew recalled from shore leave.
Philippine officials found themselves on the defensive Tuesday over the pace of relief efforts as Manila struggled to get supplies to the airport in the city of Tacloban, where as many as 10,000 people were feared dead and most of its residents were struggling to get basic foodstuffs and water four days after Typhoon Haiyan struck.
"We’ve asked the U.S. for aid and the secretary of defense says they are sending an aircraft carrier and a couple other ships - those are en route," said Ricky Carandang, a spokesman for the Philippine president, Benigno S. Aquino III.
"There are lots of remote areas that haven’t received aid," Carandang said. "The priority is to get food and water supplied."
The Philippine government expressed gratitude for the assistance, but it also appeared anxious to retain basic strategic controls, which may have had the unintended consequence of hampering some relief efforts.
William Hotchkiss, the director of the Philippine Civil Aviation Authority, told Bloomberg TV on Tuesday that 4 of the 5 airports whose operations had been disrupted by the typhoon were now fully operating.
Aid groups detailed frustrating challenges trying to help the tens of thousands of people struggling for food and shelter in Tacloban and elsewhere. The storm surge was so powerful that it left Tacloban devastated, with little means to start up the process of distributing supplies.
Asked if the Philippines would be issuing further requests for aid, Carandang said, "It is difficult to say."
Other nations have been making aid offers as the extent of the devastation has emerged.
Australia announced a $9.3 million aid package, including medical personnel and supplies like tarpaulins, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, water containers and hygiene kits. Britain pledged to give $16 million in aid so that up to 500,000 people can obtain temporary shelter. And Japan, which suffered a devastating tsunami two years ago, offered $10 million in aid.