Typhoon-hit Philippines gets U.S. food aid

APTOPIX Philippines US Typhoon Aid
A girl peeks out of a truck as she and her family leave for home after being in a shelter for a month in Pasig City, east of Manila, Philippines.Pat Roque / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The U.S. government on Monday announced $8.5 million in food aid for the Philippines, which is struggling to recover from back-to-back storms that killed more than 900 people.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that the food aid, consisting of rice and dry milk, can feed nearly half a million people for two months, officials said.

The food aid "will help the people in the most need of assistance," said Vilsack, who led a trade mission to the capital, Manila.

Tropical Storm Ketsana last month triggered the worst flooding in Manila in more than 40 years, and Typhoon Parma early this month caused deadly landslides. The two storms killed 929 and flooded the homes of more than 7 million people.

More than 123,000 people remained in government-run evacuation centers Monday, according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

The damage in agriculture alone has reached more than $446 million, Philippine officials said.

The country is seeking $74 million in foreign assistance through the United Nations for food, water, sanitation facilities and health care. U.S. officials said their aid Monday is separate from that request.

The government has also postponed to next year a conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, a 118-nation grouping of mostly African, Asian and Latin American nations, so it can focus on rehabilitating typhoon-ravaged communities.

Government forecasters said Monday that they were watching a new tropical depression about 1,677 miles east of the central Philippines, over the Pacific. It could make landfall in the country later this week if it does not change speed or direction.

"It's too far to cause any worry. But by now our people know the importance of preparing early," government forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said.

About 20 typhoons and storms barrel through the Philippine archipelago each year, especially during the June to December rainy season.