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UN scrambles to aid Typhoon Haiyan victims in Philippines

A survivor writes a message on their port

A survivor writes a message on their port to call for help at typhoon-ravaged Tacloban city, Leyte province central Philippines. Authorities said at least 2 million people in 41 provinces had been affected by Friday's disaster and at least 23,000 houses had been damaged or destroyed. (Nov. 11, 2013) Credit: AP

UNITED NATIONS -- Humanitarian workers are scrambling to reach the victims of an "unprecedented crisis" in the Philippines, clearing roads to bring food, water and medicine to survivors of the typhoon even as they count and bury the dead.

"Many places are strewn with dead bodies," said John Ging, director of operations for the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, adding that 10,000 people are estimated dead and 660,000 displaced.

Ging, who spoke to reporters in New York Monday, said that the UN had released $25 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund and that UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos is scheduled to arrive in the country's capital, Manila, and issue an emergency appeal for funding.

He called Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the island nation over the weekend, the biggest typhoon in almost a century.

"The devastation has been huge," he said, praising the Philippines government for a rapid and effective response, and adding "all of our efforts are on mobilizing very quickly and on responding on an equally massive scale."

Roads are impassable, notably a main artery leading from an airport outside Tacloban, which Ging said would be critical to delivering supplies and food. A UN Disaster and Assessment Coordination team arrived in Tacloban on Saturday.

"We have all seen the heartbreaking images of the impact of this huge storm, one of the largest to ever make landfall," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

"Many thousands of people are reported to have died, and almost 10 million people have been affected. I thank member states for their contributions to the relief effort, which must expand urgently in the days ahead. Let us all show our solidarity with the people of the Philippinesat this time of need."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that a team of military veterans has already been dispatched to the Philippines to help with the relief effort.

"The U.S. government is organizing emergency shipments of critically needed material to provide shelter to the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos driven from their homes by this unprecedented typhoon," Kerry said in a statement. "We are also organizing emergency shipments of food and hygiene supplies to thousands of families. Pentagon personnel are also deeply involved, providing logistical support to make sure relief gets to the right locations as quickly as possible. Non-governmental organizations, charities and private relief organizations are also on the scene."

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