The United States is sending a team of about 90 US marines and sailors to the Philippines as part of a first wave of promised US military assistance for a major relief efforts after a devastating typhoon killed at least 10,000 people.
Defense secretary Chuck Hagel at the weekend ordered the US military’s Pacific Command to assist with search and rescue operations and provide air support in the wake of super typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded.
The team of US forces from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade left for the Philippines from a US base in Okinawa, Japan, aboard two KC-130J Hercules transport aircraft, the marines said in a statement.
Two Florida-based Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft, which had been on a six month rotation to Misawa, Japan, have been prepositioned in the Philippines to assist with search and rescue operations, the Marines said.
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
In what appeared a mini replay of Japanese Psunamis that devastated Japan about three years ago, Hundreds of people are feared dead after Typhoon Haiyan swept through Philippines on Friday.
Among the worst hit areas were the eastern island of Leyte and the coastal city of Tacloban, which saw buildings flattened in a storm surge.
First reports said 100 bodies had been found there but the Red Cross later estimated a figure of more than 1,000, with 200 more deaths in Samar province.
Hundreds of thousands of people are reported displaced from their homes.
President Benigno Aquino said he feared there would be “substantially more casualties”.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Jasmine said: “All systems are down. There is no power, no water, nothing. People are desperate. They’re looting.”
Typhoon Haiyan – one of the most powerful storms on record to make landfall – is now bearing down on Vietnam, where tens of thousands are being evacuated.
The BBC Weather Centre says the typhoon is expected to make landfall south of Hanoi on Monday afternoon local time (between 03:00 and 09:00 GMT), although it will have decreased markedly in strength.
The latest report from the Philippines’ Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council confirmed 138 deaths as of 10:00 GMT on Saturday. It said almost 350,000 people had been reported displaced.
The Philippines’ Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla flew to Leyte by helicopter and viewed the devastated fishing town of Palo.
He said he believed “hundreds” of people had died just in that area.
Efren NagramaTacloban airport manager
Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross, said it had received preliminary reports by Red Cross teams in Tacloban and Samar.
She told the BBC it was looking into estimates that as many as 1,000 people may have been killed in Tacloban.
“Our people, they saw a lot of bodies floating and we’re preparing for support, for management of remains,” she said.
The Red Cross also reported that 200 bodies had been seen in Samar province.
Video from Tacloban showed it engulfed by a storm surge.
One resident, Sandy Torotoro, told Associated Press he was swept away when his house was ripped from its moorings.
“When we were being swept by the water, many people were floating and raising their hands and yelling for help. But what can we do? We also needed to be helped,” he said.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said after landing in Tacloban: “The devastation is, I don’t have the words for it… It’s really horrific. It’s a great human tragedy.”
John Andrews, deputy head of the Civil Aviation Authority, said he had been told of more than 100 bodies around Tacloban airport, with at least 100 more people injured.
Airport manager Efren Nagrama said: “It was like a tsunami. We escaped through the windows and I held on to a pole for about an hour as rain, seawater and wind swept through the airport. Some of my staff survived by clinging to trees.”
Local TV journalists said they had seen 20 bodies in a church in Palo, 10km (six miles) south of Tacloban.
Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, head of a UN disaster assessment co-ordination team, said there was “destruction on a massive scale” in Tacloban.
“There are cars thrown like tumbleweed and the streets are strewn with debris. The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the  Indian Ocean tsunami.”
Sources: BBC, TOI