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US, British warships sent to typhoon-hit Philippines

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The Pentagon said the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which has 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft aboard, will head to the United States’ close Asian ally on Tuesday, from Hong Kong where it is currently on a port visit.

Five other warships are also being deployed, and the group is expected to reach the Philippines within two to three days, the Pentagon said. Ninety US marines arrived in Tacloban on Monday as an advance team.

“These ships and aircraft will be able to provide humanitarian assistance, supplies, and medical care in support of the ongoing efforts led by the government and military of the Republic of the Philippines,” the Pentagon said.

Britain will also send a warship, currently deployed in nearby Singapore “at full speed” to the Philippines, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday.

Many other countries have pledged help, while United Nations agencies started to ramp up their disaster-response programmes.

The UN children’s fund UNICEF said a cargo plane carrying 60 tonnes of aid including shelters and medicine would arrive in the Philippines Tuesday, to be followed by deliveries of water purification and sanitation equipment.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, was also organising an airlift carrying aid including hygiene kits.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino late Monday declared a national state of calamity, which allowed the government to impose price controls and quickly release emergency funds.

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“In the coming days, be assured: help will reach you faster and faster,” he said in a televised address.

“My appeal to you all is: remaining calm, praying, cooperating with, and assisting one another are the things that will help us to rise from this calamity.”

Haiyan’s sustained winds when it hit Samar island, where it first made landfall, reached 315 kilometres (195 miles) an hour, making it the strongest typhoon in the world this year and one of the most powerful ever recorded.

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