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In Philippines, world scrambles to deliver 'the basics' as one mother despairs

By Joe Sterling, CNN
updated 6:47 PM EST, Sun November 17, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "I'm just thinking to jump from that building," a desperate mother says
  • U.S. military capability "continuing to grow," bringing food, water, shelter, medicine
  • British ship HMS Daring arrives in Cebu
  • Water system in Tacloban getting "back on tap," USAID official says

(CNN) -- A distraught mother who lost her young sons in the tidal surge of Super Typhoon Haiyan feels her life is over.

"I guess I'm just thinking to jump from that building," Gelenbelle Vergara tells CNN's Karl Penhaul on Sunday. "This is what would be my life's worth. My sons are dead. I just pray that I also dead with them. What would be my life worth now?"

She combs the debris, scours the morgues and pours over the list of victims found in Tacloban, Philippines.

"I don't have sons I don't know if they're dead or where their bodies are I don't know if dogs in the street are eating their bodies already."

Along with nearly 4,000 deaths, about 3 million people have been displaced, communities have been flattened and looting and violence have erupted.

A baby receives a measles vaccine in Tacloban, Leyte province, on Wednesday, November 27. Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in history, has affected 4.3 million people in the Philippines, and many of them rely on emergency relief for food and water. See how you can help. A baby receives a measles vaccine in Tacloban, Leyte province, on Wednesday, November 27. Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in history, has affected 4.3 million people in the Philippines, and many of them rely on emergency relief for food and water. See how you can help.
Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts
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Photos: Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts Photos: Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts
Video shows moment typhoon hit
Tacloban relief effort continues
Philippines survivors crowd airport

Survivors ask, 'Where was God?'

The United States and Britain are bolstering their military assets to urgently help millions of hungry and homeless Filipinos -- socked, soaked and dazed more than a week after the typhoon clobbered the midsection of the Philippines.

"Right now, the U.S. military capability is continuing to grow," U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy told CNN on Sunday. "We need to get life-sustaining aid immediately out to the stricken population. Food, water, shelter, medicine -- those are the basics."

Kennedy said numerous aircraft -- such a dozen C-130 cargo airplanes, more than a dozen MV-22 Ospreys and several dozen UH-60 helicopters -- are being deployed.

About 9,000 U.S. troops are supporting the operation in the Philippines, a U.S. military official said. U.S. military assets have delivered approximately 623,000 pounds of relief supplies.

As the Royal Australian Air Force drops off another load of supplies and humanitarian workers in Tacloban -- one of a number of nations helping this devastated country -- the piles of aid stack up on an airport tarmac

"It's chaotic, but every day, it's improving, going out to affected communities very quickly," said USAID official Ben Hemingway Sunday.

Thousands of refugees converged on the Tacloban airport terminal hoping to jump on the planes as they leave.

"I don't know what to do right now," one mother told CNN. "All I can think about is my daughters. I have to save them first."

The British ship HMS Daring arrived in Cebu on Sunday to provide medical assistance, emergency supplies and clean water to stranded victims, the UK government said.

Burying the dead in the Philippines
A mother carries her baby through the debris of destroyed houses in Tacloban, Leyte province, Philippines on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, has devastated parts of the Philippines and killed thousands of people. A mother carries her baby through the debris of destroyed houses in Tacloban, Leyte province, Philippines on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, has devastated parts of the Philippines and killed thousands of people.
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
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Photos: Children among typhoon victims Photos: Children among typhoon victims
A man reconstructs his house in the bay of Tacloban, Leyte province, Philippines, on Wednesday, November 27, 2013. Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms on record, hit the country's eastern seaboard on November 8, leaving a wide swath of destruction, including more than 5,000 deaths. A man reconstructs his house in the bay of Tacloban, Leyte province, Philippines, on Wednesday, November 27, 2013. Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms on record, hit the country's eastern seaboard on November 8, leaving a wide swath of destruction, including more than 5,000 deaths.
Photos: Typhoon Haiyan
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Photos: Typhoon Haiyan Photos: Typhoon Haiyan

"HMS Daring's arrival is a major boost to DFID's disaster experts and medical teams already deployed in the Philippines," Britain's International Development Secretary Justine Greening said, referring to the Department for International Development.

Baby born in wreckage clings to life

"This Royal Navy vessel will help us open a lifeline and allow us to help many more victims of the disaster," she said.

The Philippine central government is being criticized for a slow and disorganized response to what all agree is a catastrophic event. The nation's disaster agency said between nine million and 13 million people were affected in 44 provinces, 536 municipalities and 55 cities.

The United States and Britain are among nations across the globe racing against time to help Philippine authorities in a massive relief effort of delivering food and water to the devastated swaths of the archipelago.

When the typhoon hit the central part of the country on November 8, many lost their homes and electric power. As the days went by, thousands were scrounging for food, clean water and medical aid.

Nancy Lindborg, an assistant administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, told CNN on Sunday the United States has been focused "on getting the logistics up, bringing in food, shelter and getting the water system back on tap."

She cited a bit of progress in helping the infrastructure in Tacloban, a major city that was ground zero for the typhoon strike.

"Yesterday, we were able to support UNCIEF in bringing the water system back on stream," she said. "There are now 150,000 people in Tacloban being served by clean water."

Crews continued to collect bodies from streets, with the official death toll raised Sunday to 3,976.

CNN's Anna Coren in Tacloban contributed to this report.

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