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MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) - Six US military planes arrived Thursday at the epicentre of the Ebola crisis, carrying more aid and American Marines into Liberia, the country hardest hit by the deadly disease that has devastated West Africa and stirred anxiety across a fearful world.
At a World Bank meeting in Washington, the presidents of several West African countries struggling with Ebola pleaded for help, with one calling the epidemic "a tragedy unforeseen in modern times."
"Our people are dying," Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma lamented by videoconference at a bank meeting in Washington. He said the world is not responding fast enough as children are orphaned and infected doctors and nurses are lost to the disease.
Alpha Conde of Guinea said the region's countries are in "a very fragile situation."
"This disease is today an international threat and deserves an international response," he said, speaking through a translator.
Tom Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he was reminded of the start of the AIDS epidemic.
"We have to work now so this is not the next AIDS," Frieden said.
The fleet that landed outside the Liberian capital of Monrovia consisted of four MV-22 Ospreys and two KC-130s. The 100 additional Marines bring to just over 300 the total number of American troops in the country, said Maj. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, the commander leading the U.S. response.
Meanwhile, British authorities said they would introduce "enhanced" screening of travellers for Ebola at Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Eurostar rail terminals.
Prime Minister David Cameron's office said passengers arriving from West Africa would be quizzed about their travels and contacts. Some people could be given a medical assessment and advice on what to do if they develop symptoms.
Also Thursday, Liberian police used batons and rattan whips to disperse 100 protesters outside the National Assembly, where lawmakers were debating granting President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf more powers beyond those contained in a state of emergency declared in August. Her handling of the crisis has been criticized as heavy handed and ineffective.
Liberian state radio announced that Senate elections scheduled for next week would be postponed. No new date was given.
The outbreak has killed more than 3 800 people, according to the latest World Health Organization figures. The vast majority of those deaths have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.