By Carlo Muñoz - 11/15/13 12:57 PM EST
The Pentagon is ordering 900 additional Marines to assist with humanitarian aid efforts in the central Philippines, bringing the total number of U.S. forces in the country to more than 1,000, according to the Pentagon.
The Marine units attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) will join the more than 100 troops already on the ground in the Visayas region of the country, which was hammered over the weekend by Typhoon Haiyan.
Along with the additional manpower, eight Marine Corps V-22 Osprey aircraft attached to the 31st MEU will also head over to support airlift operations associated with the U.S. and Philippine-led disaster response mission.
The majority of that Marine Corps force will travel aboard the two Whidbey Island-class amphibious ships U.S. military leaders ordered to the region on Wednesday.
The USS Ashland and USS Germantown will join the USS George Washington aircraft carrier strike group already on station in Philippine waters.
Another 100 Marines will be airlifted into the country, likely based out of Clark Air Force Base in the Luzon region of the Philippines, north of the disaster zone, according to the Pentagon.
So far, disaster relief teams have delivered more than 170,000 pounds of aid and supplies into the areas hardest hit by the typhoon, including Tacloban, Leyte and elsewhere in the Visayas.
But relief efforts have been stymied by limited access to the most devastated areas in the country.
Until recently, disaster relief teams were limited to ferrying food, water and supplies, and evacuating survivors by air into and out of the Visayas.
Aside from relief missions, Marine Corps units are also supporting Filipino forces in security operations in the Visayas.
Sporadic violence by armed looters, looking to secure the limited humanitarian aid deliveries trickling into Tacloban and elsewhere, have begun to pop up across the wide swath of the country ravaged by the typhoon.
Those attacks, along with disease outbreaks caused by the unsanitary living conditions left behind in the wake of the storm, are the two biggest security concerns for U.S. and Philippine forces, an administration official said Wednesday.
As a result, Marine Corps units are conducting security operations alongside their Filipino counterparts "to help them with that policing [mission]" the official added.
That said, the official was adamant that American and Philippine forces would be able to maintain law and order in the area.
"The security situation is well in hand," the official added.
The typhoon, which slammed into the chain of islands in the central Philippines on Sunday, is reportedly the strongest to ever make landfall in the Pacific or elsewhere in the world.
Current casualty reports show more than 3,000 Filipinos perished in the massive storm, which reportedly took out whole villages and towns located in the coastal areas near the eye of the typhoon.
Local government and humanitarian organizations fear that the death toll could reach 10,000 as rescue and recovery efforts continue in the country.