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'The recovery stage is the longest phase': Americans gear up to help Philippines

A handout picture made available by the U.S. Marine Corps on Nov. 11, 2013, shows U.S. Marines from the third Marine Expeditionary Brigade arriving in Manila, Philippines on Nov. 10.Captain Joshua Diddams / US Marine Corps via EPA

From military veterans and U.S. troops to grassroots Filipino-American organizations, people across the country geared up to do what they could to help after one of largest storms ever barreled through the Philippines over the weekend and killed an estimated 10,000 people. 

Appropriate for the day, a group of specialized military veteran rescuers from Southern California was on its way Monday to the Philippines to help with relief efforts.

Team Rubicon, which is made up of military veterans who work with first responders, prepared packages of food, supplies and medical items over the weekend and will begin rebuilding communities throughout the Philippines, affiliate NBC News Los Angeles reported.

"People are going to be dying of thirst as they're surrounded by water," said team member Jacob Wood. "There's a level of irony that's just truly tragic."

Team Rubicon members have been to floods, earthquake-ravaged Haiti, war zones like Pakistan and Sudan, and other places in need of aid.

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The volunteers and a 17-member surgical team from Mammoth Medical Missions are slated to treat patients at a field hospital.

Also on Monday, the U.S. government said it will provide $20 million dollars to assist in relief efforts in the Philippines after Super Typhoon Haiyan left more than 10,000 people dead.

The money will go toward providing emergency shelter, food, relief commodities, water and sanitation, according to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Approximately $10 million will be used to send 10,000 hygiene kits, including other emergency relief items. The other half will go toward airlifting more than 50 tons of emergency food from Miami, Fla.

Officials said the food will feed at least 20,000 children under 5 and 15,000 adults for an estimated five days.

Senior Navy officials also told NBC News on Monday that preparations are underway to send the aircraft carrier USS George Washington to the Philippines to provide assistance in any rescue or relief efforts.

The ship is currently in port at Hong Kong, but commanders have recalled all sailors on leave back to the carrier in anticipation of the orders to depart for the Philippines which is expected at any time, the officials said.

The U.S. military also deployed more than 200 troops to the Philippines mostly from Okinawa, Japan, to assist in disaster relief operations, a move that came in response to a plea for assistance by the Philippines government.

Local officials estimate 10,000 people may have been killed in the storm. The United Nations, which is providing humanitarian assistance on the ground, estimates Haiyan has displaced 600,000 people across the country.

American Red Cross volunteers are currently surveying the damage and have launched a family tracing service for people who continue to dig through the wreckage in desperate search for loved ones.

The Philippines Red Cross also has volunteers on the ground surveying the damage and helping the survivors while, back in the United States, the east coast branch of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) has launched a disaster relief fund.

In places with large Filipino populations, like New Jersey and California for instance, citizens have formed grassroots efforts to help alleviate the plight in the Philippines.

In San Francisco, the West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Center, a nonprofit that serves underprivileged Filipino youth, stayed open overnight on Sunday to accept donations of food and medicine for victims of the typhoon.

The center collected about 700 pounds of canned food and medical supplies, said executive director Rudy Asercion, a third generation Filipino-American.

Asercion said the supplies would be shipped this week to Cebu, where Catholic church-affiliated volunteers would distribute them to typhoon victims in hard-hit places like the city of Tacloban.

San Diego resident Barry LaForgia of International Relief Teams, an organization that connects people in need with volunteers, told NBC San Diego his group will work to help the survivors today with food and shelter, but also help them return to normalcy.

“The recovery stage is the longest phase," he said.

New Jersey's Filipino community are currently in the throes of raising money with the intent to send it to their loved ones back home.

Donation boxes appeared Monday on counters at Filipino businesses throughout Jersey City's Little Manila neighborhood, home to about 16,000 of New Jersey's estimated 100,000 Filipinos, NBC New York reported.

Bea Sabino, a Filipina community organizer, said there's a big push to get money to the Philippines since it's easier than getting goods transported in such a short time.

Adelia Ramos, a Jersey City resident who is a native of the Philippines, said she spent days trying to reach her family. She teared up when describing the moment she finally got through to them on Sunday night.

"They are now safe, they are back in our province," she said, breathing in sharply and waving away tears. "But, the worries that they had, they couldn't get to our town, they had to walk for seven hours, and sometimes over dead bodies."

In the New York City borough of Queens, where many businesses along a 15-block thoroughfare dubbed "Little Manila" were planning charitable efforts for typhoon victims, the manager of Payag, a Filipino restaurant, said its weekly fundraisers for victims of last month's deadly earthquake in the Philippines were being expanded to assist typhoon survivors.

"We started these events on November 1 not realizing soon after another calamity would occur," restaurant manager Peter Obac said. "So now it's for earthquake and typhoon victims."

Anne Beryl Corotan, a New York-based campaign coordinator for the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, said her organization was working to send advance teams to the hard-hit areas of Samar and Leyte.

Reflecting sentiments common in the Filipino-American community, Corotan applauded U.S. government relief efforts but said she hoped American officials would closely monitor disbursement of the aid.

"I would like to ensure that my taxes are going to appropriate provision of social services and not for militarization, corruption and only to those who are powerful, landlords and big business owners," she said. 

NBC News' F. Brinley Bruton, Catherine Chomiak and Daniella Silva, and Reuters contributed to this report.

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