An RAF cargo plane packed with aid has taken off for the Philippines to help with the relief effort following the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan.
The huge C-17 transport plane filled with heavy duty vehicles and medical supplies left RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire as part of Britain's emergency response to the disaster.
Its load includes two JCB diggers, two Land Rovers and a forklift truck emblazoned with stickers reading “UK aid from the British people”.
The aircraft is being operated by No 99 Squadron and is expected to land in the Philippines in around 24 hours.
Flight Sergeant Tony Rimmer, load master at Brize Norton, said: “You feel like you're doing your part to help. It's a small part but we try to do our best."
The carrier comes as part of a huge international relief effort to get aid into the affected areas. A 12-strong team of British doctors, surgeons and paramedics landed in the capital, Manila, yesterday to help treat survivors of the typhoon, the Department for International Development (DfID) said.
Their arrival came as the Prime Minister announced that the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious was also being sent there.
Speaking at Brize Norton, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: We have been one of the countries that has really been part of trying to get humanitarian aid through to the people on the ground.
”But what we know is we have to get the logistics operation up and running and that means clearing the roads. You cannot do that without the right equipment. We've got the right equipment and we're sending it over.“
She added: ”I think we'll be working with the Philippines over the coming months, possibly years.
The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has said its charity appeal to help the 11.5 million people affected by the disaster has raised £23 million in two days and the Government has given more than £20 million in aid.
The Philippines government has defended its efforts to deliver assistance to victims of Typhoon Haiyan, with Interior secretary Mar Roxas arguing: “In a situation like this, nothing is fast enough.”
He was speaking in the city of Tacloban, most of which was destroyed by the storm one week ago.
The spokesman for the country's civil defence agency, Major Reynaldo Balido, said the figure had risen to 2,360.
Government officials have given different death tolls, both actual and estimated, as a result of the disaster. The most recent number given by officials is 3,621.
But some officials estimate that the final toll, when the missing are declared dead and remote regions are reached, will be more than 10,000.
At least 600,000 people have been displaced following the storm, which was one of the most powerful ever recorded on land.
Workers in Tacloban have been burying scores of unidentified bodies in a mass grave as desperately needed aid begins to reach some of the half-million people displaced by the disaster.
UN humanitarian chief Baroness Amos said 11.5 million people have been affected by the typhoon, describing the situation as "dismal".
"Tens of thousands of people are living in the open... exposed to rain and wind,” she told reporters in Manila.
She said the immediate priority for humanitarian agencies over the next few days is to transport and distribute high-energy biscuits and other food, tarpaulins, tents, clean drinking water and basic sanitation services.
“I think we are all extremely distressed that this is day six and we have not managed to reach everyone,” she said.
Additional reporting by Agencies
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