US military sending troops to Yolanda-hit areas
(UPDATED) US Defense Secretary Hagel directs naval and aviation resources to storm-ravaged Philippines

RETRIEVAL. Dead bodies litter the streets of Tacloban city as volunteers collect them. Photo by EPA/Francis Malasig

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The US military is sending troops to assist in the rescue, relief, and recovery efforts in areas ravaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda (international codename Haiyan).

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement that helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and surface maritime search and rescue equipment were being provided after a direct request from the Philippines government.

“Secretary Hagel has directed US Pacific Command to support US government humanitarian relief operations in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan,” it said.

“The initial focus includes surface maritime search and rescue, medium-heavy helicopter lift support, airborne maritime search and rescue, fixed wing lift support and logistics enablers,” the statement added.

The troops will be led by Marines out of Okinawa, Japan, CNN reported, quoting two US military officials. Other units of the military will also help out.

Eastern Visayas was extensively devastated by the super typhoon Friday, November 8, and is considered by meteorologists as the strongest tropical cyclones to have ever made landfall.

Watch a video of the destruction in the town of Giporlos in Eastern Samar below.

The mission will include “deploying aircraft for search-and-rescue missions,” CNN reported.

This latest US assistance is on top of the initial $100,000 fund provided by the US Embassy in Manila.

The amount, announced by Acting Ambassador Brian Goldbeck, is for health, water and sanitation support for the victims of the typhoon.

“A Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team is poised to fly to Manila tomorrow to conduct a needs assessment, and a USAID Disaster Assistance and Response Team is also preparing to conduct surveys in country,” the embassy said in a statement.

“USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and Mission representatives have already deployed at various locales throughout the affected area and determined that the damage is severe in multiple locations,” the embassy added.

In an earlier statement, the US Pacific command and the Department of Defense said they “stand ready to offer assistance.” – With reports from KD Suarez and Agence France-Presse/

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