Typhoon Haiyan: US, British warships sent to typhoon-hit Philippines

TACLOBAN, Philippines (AFP) - US and British warships were deployed on Tuesday to the typhoon-ravaged Philippines where well over 10,000 people are feared dead and countless survivors are begging for help in rain-soaked wastelands.

An international relief effort has begun to build momentum, with the United States and Britain announcing they would quickly deploy warships carrying thousands of soldiers to the Philippines.

The Pentagon said the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which has 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft aboard, will head to the United States' close Asian ally on Tuesday, from Hong Kong where it is currently on a port visit.

Five other warships are also being deployed, and the group is expected to reach the Philippines within two to three days, the Pentagon said. Ninety US marines arrived in Tacloban on Monday as an advance team.

"These ships and aircraft will be able to provide humanitarian assistance, supplies, and medical care in support of the ongoing efforts led by the government and military of the Republic of the Philippines," the Pentagon said.

Britain will also send a warship, currently deployed in nearby Singapore, "at full speed" to the Philippines, Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday.

Many other countries have pledged help with even China, which has been embroiled in a bitter territorial dispute with the Philippines, offering aid and sympathy.

The UN children's fund UNICEF said a cargo plane carrying 60 tonnes of aid including shelters and medicine would arrive in the Philippines on Tuesday, to be followed by deliveries of water purification and sanitation equipment.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, was also organising an airlift carrying aid including hygiene kits.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino's declaration on Monday of a state of calamity allowed the government to impose price controls and quickly release emergency funds.

"In the coming days, be assured: help will reach you faster and faster," he said in a televised address.

"My appeal to you all is: remaining calm, praying, cooperating with, and assisting one another are the things that will help us to rise from this calamity."