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Mudslide Relief Efforts Continue Despite Damaged Equipment

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2006 – Filipino and U.S. forces with Joint Task Force Balikatan 2006 continued search and rescue efforts today following the Feb. 17 mudslide in Leyte, Philippines, U.S. military officials said.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit unload an HS-60S helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25. The helicopter landed near the remains of the village of Guinsaugon, Philippines, to deliver supplies and equipment from the dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry. Harpers Ferry and the amphibious assault ship USS Essex are conducting operations in support of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts on the island of Leyte, following a Feb. 17 landslide, which devastated Guinsaugon, located in the southern part of the island. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael D. Kennedy, USN

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

U.S. Marines with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, which is serving as the Battalion Landing Team for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, discovered seven local mudslide victims while working at the disaster site, officials said.

U.S. military forces were in the area participating in Exercise Balikatan 2006.

Filipino and U.S. forces continue to work with a sense of urgency, Marine Brig. Gen. Mastin Robeson, commander of Joint Task Force Balikatan 2006, said. Civilian rescue experts also are working with local authorities to determine when the search phase will be completed and the site will be considered a recovery effort.

Until then, a 2-ton rotary drill rig will aid workers. However, its use at the site of the mudslide, which buried the entire village of Guinsaugon, is being postponed pending a minor repair. A small pulley inside the machine was broken when the rig arrived at a site, explained Manolo Contreras, the owner of Content Transport Services, the company that contracted the rig for use in rescue efforts. Contreras said a replacement for the broken part is en route to the site, and excavation is scheduled to begin no later than 8 a.m. tomorrow.

The U.S. military contracted the rig specifically for the rescue efforts at a cost of more than $7,000. A CH-53E "Super Stallion" helicopter provided by U.S. forces was scheduled to transport the rig to the disaster area today. The rig is a skid-mounted rotary drill rig, capable of digging up to 60 meters deep. It is equipped with a mud pump used to remove small rocks and stones from the drilling site.

To date, JTF Balikatan 2006 has provided supplies and support, including: bottled water, military rations, rice, medications, sleeping mats, blankets, pick axes, shovels, 5- and 1.5-gallon water cans, 55-gallon diesel fuel drums, chainsaws, light sets, kettles, and generators. The task force also has provided air and ground transportation.

U.S. and Philippine forces are coordinating with public health officials to monitor the public health status in the area, officials said.

Joint interoperability exercises such as Balikatan 2006 enable U.S. and Filipino armed forces to respond rapidly to disaster situations such as the disaster that occurred in Leyte.

(Compiled from Combined Information Bureau, Philippines news releases.)

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