US carrier spearheads Philippine relief effort

US carrier spearheads Philippine relief effort

TACLOBAN, Philippines - A US aircraft carrier sent mercy flights into the typhoon-smashed Philippines Friday, transporting urgently needed aid for survivors still begging for help in wreckage strewn with bodies one week after the disaster.

The USS George Washington is flying missions to towns worst-hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan as well as "remote areas that we could not access earlier," Philippine Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Miguel Okol said.

Thousands are feared to have died in the storm, and the lives of many others were hanging by the thinnest of threads, even as the relief operations moved up a gear.

In Tacloban city's only functioning hospital - without a roof, power or water - a woman frantically pumped air into the lungs of her husband, lying critically ill a day after his leg was amputated.

Valentina Gamba, the head of nursing at the hospital, said they had tried to discharge patients who they could not feed.

"But they still stayed for shelter... because they cannot go home," Gamba told AFP.

Several kilometres away at the city's airport, hundreds of famished and homeless survivors hoping to escape devastated Leyte island looked on as American soldiers unloaded aid from aircraft onto trucks.

Emergency supplies have been excruciatingly slow to get through to increasingly desperate survivors, with United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos admitting that the delivery of relief goods had not been quick enough.

On Friday, the Philippines government disputed the UN's take on the extent of the death toll. The world body says 4,460 have been confirmed dead, but the Philippines' National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council insisted the number remained at 2,360.

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