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U.S. dispatches aid for Philippine typhoon recovery, Obama says

Reuters

By Arshad Mohammed and Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States rushed assistance to the Philippines after a typhoon killed at least 10,000 people and will provide additional aid if it is needed, President Barack Obama said on Sunday.

Obama said America "is already providing significant humanitarian assistance and we stand ready to further assist the (Philippines) government's relief and recovery efforts."

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the millions of people affected by this devastating storm," Obama said in a statement.

The U.S. government aid - both military and civilian - began flowing as relief efforts got under way by international organizations and private relief groups.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is sending supplies, including emergency shelter and hygiene materials, to help 10,000 families. The supplies are expected to arrive early this week, according to a spokeswoman.

USAID also is dispatching 55 metric tons of emergency food to feed 20,000 children and 15,000 adults for up to five days, the agency said.

"The U.S. government has made an initial $100,000 available on November 9 following a formal request for international assistance by the Philippine government," the spokeswoman said.

An emergency response team sent by USAID arrived in Leyte province, which is one of the hardest-hit areas, the spokeswoman said, adding that the team is conducting damage assessments and tracking humanitarian conditions.

Meanwhile, about 90 U.S. Marines and sailors arrived in the Philippines as part of a first wave of promised U.S. military assistance, which included aircraft for search and rescue operations.

Pentagon photographs showed the Marines shortly after their arrival, preparing to unload pallets of military food rations, known Meals Ready to Eat, at the Villamor Air Base.

At the same time, U.S. aid groups launched a multimillion dollar relief campaign of their own. World Vision, based in the Seattle area, said a shipment of blankets and plastic tarpaulins would arrive on Monday as a first step in its plan to help some 400,000 people.

FOCUS ON LIFE-SAVING

The Marines said its team, from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, was dispatched from a U.S. base in Okinawa, Japan, aboard two KC-130J Hercules transport aircraft.

Two Florida-based Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft, which had been on a six-month rotation to Misawa, Japan, have been positioned in the Philippines to assist with search and rescue operations, the Marines said in statement.

The typhoon is estimated to have killed at least 10,000 people in the central Philippines. Most of the deaths appear to have been caused by surging sea water strewn with debris that many said resembled a tsunami, leveling houses and drowning its victims.

"Right now, we're focusing on life-saving things," said Chris Palusky, World Vision's senior director for emergency affairs, listing food, shelter and sanitation supplies as the first items to move.

The initial shipment of 5,000 blankets and 3,000 tarpaulins, from a German warehouse, will give survivors the material to build temporary shelter, said World Vision, which has been active in the Philippines since 1954 and has a staff of 600 people in the country.

The U.N. World Food Program said it mobilized a $2 million relief program that would include flying 40 tonnes of fortified "high energy" biscuits to the Philippines from Dubai.

AmeriCares, based in Stamford, Connecticut, said it had a relief team on the ground in the Philippines and was shipping relief supplies. The shipment included antibiotics, pain relievers, wound care supplies and other medical aid for a least 20,000 people.

CARE, based in Atlanta, said it aimed to help 30,000 families with emergency and longer-term assistance.

U.S. groups, including CARE, Save the Children and the American Red Cross, appealed on the Internet to Americans for cash donations. World Vision had a target of $3 million in U.S. donations and a global total of $20 million.

CARE, based in Atlanta, said it aimed to help 30,000 families with emergency and longer-term assistance.

The American Red Cross, headquartered in Washington, dispatched a telecommunications unit and, through its local U.S. chapters, activated a family tracing service for people with relatives in the Philippines.

(Additional reporting by Charles Abbott in Washington.; Editing by Sandra Maler and Christopher Wilson)

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