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Plane heads to typhoon relief zone

A plane loaded with more than 95 tonnes of aid including water and sanitation equipment has departed the UK as part of the emergency response to Typhoon Haiyan.

The aircraft left East Midlands Airport for the Philippines late this evening, International Development Secretary Justine Greening wrote on Twitter.

A British Airways jet is also expected to leave the UK tomorrow morning after offering aid agencies including Oxfam, Save the Children and Unicef the aircraft to fly emergency aid and supplies to the disaster zone.

It comes as British warship HMS Daring arrived earlier today after spending the last three days carrying out reconnaissance work in and around the island nation, using a Lynx helicopter to survey the areas which have not yet been reached by international relief teams.

Members of the 12-strong medical team from the UK, which arrived in the Philippines earlier this week, will also be flown to different areas to treat injured victims of the typhoon.

The Department for International Aid and Development (DfID) flight is transporting medical supplies, water tanks and forklifts trucks to the devastated Asian country, along with emergency equipment on behalf of Save the Children and Oxfam.

Ms Greening said: "This flight from East Midlands Airport is taking vital supplies to help those most in need after the terrible typhoon which hit the Philippines last week.

"The British public have shown incredible generosity over the past few days and it is great that alongside supplies from our own stores, this DfID-chartered flight will also carry aid from our partners including stocks of medicine and newborn kits from Save the Children and water and sanitation equipment from Oxfam.

"As the arrival of HMS Daring shows, this joint working between the UK Government and NGOs, alongside those on the ground in the Philippines, means we are able to get target much needed support on the ground."

A number of Britons are missing following the typhoon, Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed yesterday.

Among those feared dead is Colin Bembridge, 61, from Grimsby, Lincolnshire, who was staying with his Filipino partner Maybelle, 35, and their three-year-old daughter Victoria near the city of Tacloban when the storm struck.

Channel 4 News said Mr Bembridge was visiting his girlfriend's relatives and had hired a beach house in Baybay, one of the ravaged coastal villages.

The mother of Mr Bembridge's partner, 79-year-old Lydia, showed the programme the wreckage of the beach house where her daughter and granddaughter were staying, and said they had not been seen since the typhoon struck eight days ago.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Mr Hague spoke on the phone to Philippines secretary for foreign affairs Albert Ferreros Del Rosario to offer his condolences.

"The Foreign Secretary confirmed that a number of British nationals remained unaccounted for," the spokesman added. "He asked that every possible assistance be given to any British people caught up in the disaster."

The Disasters Emergency Committee's (DEC) emergency fund said it has so far raised £35 million from donations by the public to the humanitarian effort.

Speaking on behalf of the 14 UK charities which make up the DEC, its chief executive Saleh Saeed said: "The kindness and generosity of the public has been overwhelming this weekend, a full week after the typhoon devastated parts of the Philippines, and the aid agencies represented by the DEC are extremely grateful for people's continued compassion."

Typhoon Haiyan - said to be the strongest-ever to make landfall - has made roads impassable and left airports out of action, severely hampering relief efforts.

Yesterday, an RAF C-17 plane carrying heavy duty vehicles and emergency medical supplies touched down in Cebu province to deliver two JCB diggers, two Land Rovers and a forklift truck after leaving RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire the previous morning.

The logistical equipment will help with the distribution of aid, clear debris left by the storm and with reconstruction work to help the millions who have been displaced.

Asif Ahmad, British ambassador to the Philippines, was at the airport to meet the delivery.

He said: "The significance of this load is that it is heavy machinery: bulldozers, Land Rovers, machines that can actually push through the debris that is blocking aid now.

"This is vital equipment because the Philippine military and others have not been able to bring this material here."

An RAF C-130 Hercules transport aircraft will also be sent over to help carry aid workers to areas that have so far been difficult to reach.

British Airways said a Boeing 747 freighter, which has a capacity for up to 120 tonnes of cargo, is scheduled to leave Stansted Airport in Essex early tomorrow.

David Cameron also announced yesterday that the Government is to give an extra £30 million in aid, bringing the total contribution to £50 million.

The Prime Minister said: "A week after Typhoon Haiyan hit, the scale of the disaster is becoming clearer every day - over 3,600 dead, nearly 12 million affected.

"I'm proud of the fact that the UK has taken the lead in international relief with rapid response of warships, aircraft and equipment."

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious is being sent to replace HMS Daring, which had just begun an exercise in the South China Sea when it was tasked to join the humanitarian relief effort.

The latest death toll given by Mr Cameron is an increase of more than 1,000 on estimates made by the country's civil defence agency earlier this week.

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.


From Belfast Telegraph