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Carriers, V-22 Ospreys, US Marines Flock To Philippine Disaster Zone

November 16, 2013


10 days after Typhoon Haiyan battered the central Philippines an enormous air and naval operation is now underway to assist survivors.

Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, barreled through the island provinces of the Visayas with hurricane force winds and tidal waves. The worst hit site, Tacloban City, was completely destroyed.

Until now, it’s unclear how many Filipinos were affected. Estimates of those rendered homeless hover near two million people.

Despite the national government’s slow response during the aftermath, by November 10 foreign military assistance was making its presence felt as part of Operation Damayan*.

On Monday, November 11, US Air Force (USAF) C-130’s reached Leyte to deliver supplies. The US Defense Department also ordered the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which was in Hong Kong on port call, to the Philippines together with its escorts–three missile cruisers, one destroyer, and a supply ship.

On Tuesday, November 12, US President Barack Obama expressed his condolences to Philippine President Benigno Aquino, whose administration was struggling with the scale of the disaster. Four V-22 Osprey’s from the US Marine Corps base in Okinawa departed for the Philippines. Another four left the following day.

By Thursday, November 14, the George Washington’s battle group and the four additional V-22 Osprey’s from Okinawa arrived, bringing the total Osprey deployment to eight.

The UK’s Ministry of Defense also announced the deployment of the carrier HMS Illustrious to the Philippines. The UK’s robust aid spans money, supplies delivered via C-17 transport, and warships like the destroyer HMS Daring.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense sent a 50-man volunteer unit as well. Another 1,000 could arrive by next week.

Furthermore, a 150-person medical mission arrived from Israel on an El-Al 747 with 100 tons of supplies.

As of Friday, November 15, US assets in the Philippines numbered 400 personnel on the ground, eight Osprey’s, 12 KC-130’s, 21 helicopters, and the George Washington battle group.

An additional USN asset, the medical ship USNS Mercy, is expected in Philippine waters next week.

On the same day, a press release from the Pentagon confirmed that Lt. Gen. John E. Wissler and 1,000 Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa were en route via three amphibious ships to the Philippines. It added Wissler would oversee US operations from Camp Aguinaldo, headquarters of the Philippine military.

Since last week some 40 countries and multiple organizations have either sent volunteers, delivered supplies, or pledged assistance to the Philippine government.

Owing to its geographical location, the Philippines is frequently struck by multiple typhoons and earthquakes, the most recent shook the south of the country last month.

*Damayan–A Filipino word meaning to help others in a time of need

Typhoon Haiyan Trajectory

Trajectory of Typhoon Haiyan