RAF aid plane on way to Philippines in relief effort

Handout photo issued by the Ministry of Defence of a Royal Air Force 99 Sqn C-17 transport plane as it departs RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire
Image caption The C-17 military transport aircraft is carrying JCB diggers, a forklift truck, two Land Rovers and medical aid

An RAF transport aircraft carrying aid for people affected by the Philippines typhoon has left the UK and is expected to reach the country within 24 hours.

The C-17 aircraft, which contains heavy duty vehicles and medical supplies, is part of Britain's emergency response.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) said its UK appeal had raised more than £30m in three days.

Typhoon Haiyan, which hit last Friday, has killed at least 3,621 people and displaced more than half a million.

'Terrible disaster'

The C-17, which took off on Friday morning from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, is being operated by No 99 Squadron.

Its load includes two JCB diggers, two Land Rovers and a forklift truck emblazoned with stickers reading "UK aid from the British people".

Flight Sergeant Tony Rimmer, loadmaster at Brize Norton, said they had had plenty of volunteers to help load the aircraft.

Speaking at Brize Norton, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the UK was trying to get humanitarian aid through to the people on the ground, and that meant clearing roads to get the logistics operation up and running,

"You cannot do that without the right equipment. We've got the right equipment and we're sending it over," she said.

Image caption JCB equipment is being transported to help clear the way to hard-to-reach areas
Image caption Land Rovers and other equipment will help reopen roads
Image caption The humanitarian aid is expected to reach the Philippines on Saturday

Meanwhile a team of 12 medical experts from the UK, requested by the Philippines Department of Health, has arrived in the country's capital, Manila.

The Foreign Office says it is "urgently looking into" reports that a British national was among those killed by Typhoon Haiyan.

'Delivering essentials'

The Royal Navy destroyer HMS Daring is expected to arrive in the Philippines on Friday.

HMS Daring has more than 200 personnel on board including a doctor, a dentist, engineers and a chaplain. It is also carrying members of the Royal Marines band who, as a secondary role, are trained first aiders.

The ship holds 700 ration packs, can provide more than 20,000 litres of water, and has other equipment including generators and thermal-imaging cameras.

It is due to be relieved by the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, which is currently in the Gulf, and is set to arrive on 24 November.

Announcing the move on Thursday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the typhoon in the Philippines was an "absolute tragedy" and the country needed long-term help for its people.

Image caption HMS Illustrious is being sent to the Philippines to help the aid effort

He said the UK government had now given more than £20m in aid.

He added that helicopters from HMS Illustrious would be used to take food and water to people stranded in remote parts of the Philippines, which is made up of more than 7,000 islands.

The carrier, which currently has 900 crew and seven helicopters, has equipment to provide water suitable for drinking.

'Major logistical challenges'

A huge international aid effort is under way, but widespread infrastructure damage is hampering efforts to distribute it to some areas.

The Salvation Army said it was working on alternative methods of getting help to people in need.

International emergency services team leader Damaris Frick said: "There are major logistical challenges on the ground preventing goods from being distributed. With this being the case, the Salvation Army is using its extensive local connections to organise road transport for food, water and other essentials."

The Salvation Army said there was also a "growing concern" for the health and well-being of its relief teams, with reports that the most affected areas were starting to run out of food and water.

The DEC's alliance of 14 UK aid charities said donations from the UK public have shot up from £23m at midday on Thursday to £30m on Friday.

The funds will be used to deliver food, water and sanitation equipment, household items and building materials to rebuild essential infrastructure in the ruined areas.

DEC chief executive Saleh Saeed said: "We are so grateful to the people of the UK for their generosity to date. It's important we continue to provide this help."

US aircraft carrier and other US vessels have already arrived in the Philippines, where the UN estimates 11 million people have been affected by the typhoon.