Authorities say 2,357 people have been confirmed dead in the disaster, but that figure is expected to rise, perhaps significantly, when information is collected from other areas of the disaster zone.
In the city's first mass burial, scores of bodies in leaking black bags were lowered into graves without any prayers being said.
John Cajipe, 31, and three teenage boys who work at the local cemetery placed the first body in the grave's right hand corner. Sweat rolled down their faces in the blistering sun as they carried the body.
The second body followed two minutes later, carefully placed alongside the first. And so on, until scores of bodies — all unidentified — filled the grave.
"I hope this is the last time I see something like this," said Mayor Alfred Romualdez. "When I look at this it just reminds me of what has happened from the day the storm hit until today."
Officials said efforts had been made to identify the bodies so families have a chance of finding out what happened to their loved ones in the days and weeks to come. It was not immediately clear whether this included DNA testing.
In addition to the USS George Washington, about a half dozen other U.S. ships — including a destroyer and two huge supply vessels — are already in the area, along with two P-3 aircraft that are being used to survey the damage from the sky so that planners can assess where aid is most needed, the 7th Fleet said.
"We are operating 24-7," said Capt. Cassandra Gesecki, a spokeswoman for the Marines, who have set up an operations hub near Manila's international airport. "We are inundated with flights."
Valerie Amos, the U.N. humanitarian chief who toured Tacloban on Wednesday, said some 11.5 million people have been affected by the typhoon, which includes people who lost their loved ones, were injured, and suffered damage to their homes, business or livelihoods.
"The situation is dismal ... tens of thousands of people are living in the open ... exposed to rain and wind," she told reporters in Manila on Thursday.
Aid has been slow to reach the 545,000 people displaced by the storm that tore across several islands in eastern Philippines last Friday. Most of the casualties occurred in Leyte province, its capital Tacloban, and Samar island. Many bodies are still lying along the roads in the city and others are buried under debris.
She said the immediate priority for humanitarian agencies over the next few days is to transport and distribute high-energy biscuits and other food, tarpaulins, tents, clean drinking water and basic sanitation services.
"I think we are all extremely distressed that this is Day 6 and we have not managed to reach everyone," she said.
The first nighttime flights — of C-130 transport planes — arrived since the typhoon struck, suggesting air control systems are now in place for around-the-clock operations — a prerequisite for the massive relief operation needed.
Tacloban city administrator Tecson Lim said 70 percent of the city's 220,000 people are in need of emergency assistance and that only 70 of the city's 2,700 employees have been showing up for work.
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