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Kerry reaffirms US commitment to Philippines

TACLOBAN, Philippines -- A stunned Secretary of State John Kerry toured a typhoon-devastated Philippine city on Wednesday, pledging more U.S. aid as its Asian ally appealed for international help to fund an US$8.17 billion rebuilding plan.

“This is a devastation unlike anything that I have ever seen at this scale,” Kerry said while visiting a temporary U.S. aid supply depot for survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan in the central city of Tacloban.

“It really is quite stunning. It looks like a war zone in every respect and for a lot of people it is,” he told reporters.

Tacloban, a city of 220,000 people, bore the brunt of Haiyan's fury last month as towering tsunami-like waves whipped up by the storm obliterated its coastal districts.

Nearly 8,000 people were killed or remain missing in central provinces, with Tacloban accounting for more than 5,000 of the total.

“Entire communities leveled, water up to the second storey of the airport tower, and all of this covered in water,” Kerry said, gesturing toward tents during his visit to the U.S. Agency for International Development depot near Tacloban's airport.

He said President Barack Obama had sent him to offer condolences and assure Filipinos of unwavering efforts in assisting them.

Kerry announced US$25 million in extra aid, raising Washington's Haiyan relief effort to nearly US$87 million, a U.S. Embassy statement said.

Two U.S. firms, Procter and Gamble and Coca-Cola, will help repair, restock and reopen more than 2,000 small groceries in typhoon-hit areas, it added.

“Last month's typhoon broke the world's heart, but what is certain is that it didn't break the spirit of the people here,” Kerry stressed.

The United States, a long-time military ally of the Philippines, sent an aircraft carrier group and committed 1,000 Marines in a massive aid airlift in the desperate first few days after the typhoon, when Tacloban and other areas were cut off by road.

The still impoverished Philippines is battered by an average of 20 storms a year, and Filipinos have long had to deal with weather-related disasters as best they can.

But the fury of Haiyan, with its maximum 315-kilometer- (195 mile) per-hour winds, was unprecedented

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a visit to the typhoon-ravaged city of Tacloban in the central Philippines on Wednesday, Dec. 18. Kerry visited the central Philippine city, expressing shock at the death and destruction and vowing that Washington will not abandon its key ally. (AFP)

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