MANILA - Amphibious vehicles carrying hundreds of US Marines have been ordered into action to help relief efforts in the hard-to-reach Philippines typhoon disaster zone.
The ships will ferry hundreds of troops into storm-ravaged parts of the country where broken infrastructure is badly hampering aid deliveries and adding to a growing sense of desperation among survivors of the horrendous storm.
The deployment, which will see the vessels sent from southern Japan, is the latest US contribution to the global bid to help the Philippines, which is staggering under the weight of possibly its worst-ever humanitarian disaster.
Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, which were deployed earlier this week and can land and take off like a helicopter but fly like a plane, and amphibious assault vehicles give the US military greater reach in a region where many communities are still cut off.
Aircraft carrier the USS George Washington, with 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft aboard, along with five warships from its battle group, were heading to the Philippines to join more than 200 US Marines already on the ground. A British warship was also on its way to the Philippines.
The UN estimates that more than 11.3 million Filipinos have been affected, with 673,000 made homeless, since Haiyan - one of the most powerful typhoons ever - smashed into the nation's central islands on Friday.
The UN on Tuesday launched a flash appeal for US$301 million to help with the immediate aftermath of the disaster, which it has said could have already cost 10,000 lives.