November 14th, 2013
10:26 AM ET

Typhoon Haiyan: U.S. Aid Fleet Enters Disaster Zone

Much-needed relief arrived in the Philippines on Thursday, when two U.S. Navy ships sailed in to help hundreds of thousands who have gone without food and clean water for nearly a week.

The destroyers USS Lassen and USS Mustin led the way for a mammoth aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, which has 80 aircraft and 5,000 sailors to distribute food, water and medicine, the Navy said.

A nearly 700-foot supply ship is not far behind, Senior International Correspondent Nick Paton Walsh reports.

The Navy cut the sailors' shore leave short to send them on the relief mission to the area ripped apart last Friday by one of the strongest cyclones on record, Typhoon Haiyan.

Its winds, 3.5 times as strong as those of hurricane Katrina, pushed in a wall of water about 15 feet high, washing away towns on many islands in the south of the country.

By Thursday morning, the official death toll had climbed to 2,357. More than 3,800 were injured and about 77 are still missing.

The sailors arrive to a scene of desolation, where help comes too late for many, and international aid has piled up at airports, blocked from distribution to the starving by miles of debris piled up on roads to hard-hit areas.

It is taking a long time to clear them and establish communications in to remote areas, said Philippine Interior Minister Mar Roxas.

"Imagine a situation where from zero, from zero, no power, light, water, communication, nothing, you have to build the social infrastructures as well as the physical infrastructures for 275,000."

Only 20 trucks are operating and they are overloaded with tasks, he said. Half are delivering food; half are clearing roads and removing dead bodies that have been lying around since the storm hit.

He led a cadaver recovery team himself on Tuesday and Wednesday, he said.

The danger of violence also looms over the relief efforts.

Police warned a CNN crew to turn back Wednesday on the road south of Tacloban, saying rebels had been shooting at civilians.

"Maybe they are looking for food," a police commander said.

Though progress is slow, Roxas feels it is doubling by the day.

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