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. US helicopters lift aid to typhoon-ravaged Philippines

Philippines maps disaster zones
A hazard-mapping project for the Philippines' typhoon-prone eastern seaboard is set to be completed next year to help minimise casualties and economic disruption, the government said Thursday. The maps will show areas prone to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and storm surges and other natural disasters, as well as potential relocation areas, the environment and natural resources department said in a statement. Natural and man-made disasters displace at least eight million people in the Philippines every year, with four million victims left to fend for themselves, according to an Asian Development Bank study released in March. Typhoon Fengshen, one of about 19 major storms expected to hit the Philippine islands this year, sunk a ferry carrying 850 people, killed nearly 500 other people on land and left more than one million others homeless last weekend according to the civil defence office. He said 80 percent of the eastern seaboard had been mapped after delays due to communist guerrilla activity and a shortage of manpower. Ninety of the 120 geologists assigned to the project have left for higher-paying jobs with mining companies. The entire Philippine islands should be mapped by 2010, he added.
by Staff Writers
Iloilo, Philippines (AFP) June 26, 2008
Six US Navy Seahawk helicopters delivered aid to typhoon-ravaged communities in the central Philippines on Thursday as part of a pledge by US President George W. Bush.

The helicopters from the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier arrived in Iloilo City on the central island of Panay which bore the brunt of Typhoon Fengshen when it slammed into the Philippines on Saturday.

"We will use our air assets to transport relief goods into inaccessible areas," said Captain Thomas Lalor, deputy commander of the helicopter group.

"We are here to give the local officials whatever help they require."

The nuclear powered USS Ronald Reagan and its battle group have not yet entered Philippine waters, Lalor added.

The helicopters will initially bring blankets, food packs and generators to ravaged areas, Philippine civil defence chief Anthony Golez said, adding that US Navy personnel would also assess how they could help further.

More than 490 people died and more than a million have been left homeless by Fengshen, according to civil defence estimates.

The number does not include the hundreds thought killed when a ferry battered by the extreme weather sank carrying more than 850 people.

Bush ordered the carrier group to the Philippines during talks on Tuesday with his Philippine counterpart, Gloria Arroyo, in Washington.

"We want to help our friends in a time of need," he told her as they met in the Oval Office.

A US Navy supply ship, divers and a maritime patrol aircraft have already arrived in the central Philippines to help in finding victims form the ferry disaster.

The Panay provinces, which include Iloilo, Antique and Aklan, suffered massive damage and flooding during the typhoon with 277 dead and at least 251 missing.

More than 304,000 people are still in evacuation centres, the regional disaster monitoring council said.

Power and telephone lines are still down in parts of the island and the northern parts of Antique are still isolated due to landslides, the council said.

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AIDS epidemic is disaster like drought, floods for Africa: Red Cross
Geneva (AFP) June 26, 2008
The AIDS epidemic in southern Africa is so severe that it should be classed as a disaster comparable to floods or famine, a new study by the Red Cross said Thursday.

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