Navy Ships Arrive in Philippines to Provide Disaster Relief
By Petty Officer 2nd Class Corey Truax, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service
LEYTE, Philippines, Feb. 19, 2006 Two Navy ships, USS Essex and USS Harpers Ferry, and elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived off the coast of Southern Leyte today to provide humanitarian relief and assistance following a deadly Feb. 17 landslide.
Philippine Maj. Gen. Bonificio Ramos, left, meets with U.S. Marine Corps Col. Walter Miller to discuss how the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps can assist in the landslide relief effort in the Leyte region. Miller is commander of 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Ramos is commander of the Philippine Army's 8th Infantry Division. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael D. Kennedy, USN
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
The ships, based in Sasebo, Japan, responded to the Republic of the Philippines' request for humanitarian relief aid after the landslide devastated parts of the island.
"We were sent to assist in the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission because the crew and embarked Marines of the 31st MEU are trained for this kind of mission," said Capt. Martin J. Keaney, Essex's commander.
Capt. Mark E. Donahue, commodore, Amphibious Squadron 11, the task group commander of the Forward Deployed Amphibious Readiness Group, flew over the area today and met with members of the Philippine military.
"We went to survey the area at the invitation of the Philippine government. I discussed what we would be able to provide with members of the Philippine Army task force coordinating relief efforts," he said. "We now have diggers on the ground to assist."
"We are currently gathering onboard relief supplies, volunteers, linguists and other preparations to be ready to provide assistance while on station off of Leyte," said Keaney.
Meanwhile, joint task force relief efforts are moving desperately needed supplies into the Leyte area, officials from Combined Information Bureau, Philippines, reported today. The initial delivery contained five generators, 10 light sets on tripods, 100 shovels, 2,100 five-gallon water cans, 900 1.5-gallon water cans, 400 four-quart kettles, 2,000 blankets, Meals, Ready to Eat and bottled water, officials said.
Additional relief supplies sent into Tacloban today for further distribution into the Leyte disaster area included a pallet of water, a pallet of Meals, Ready to Eat, a pallet of shovels and miscellaneous supplies, five generators and a reverse-osmosis water purification system capable of purifying 800 gallons per hour, officials said.
Extended periods of heavy rain and flooding hit Leyte Island, about 420 miles southeast of Manila, and caused the massive mudslide, which practically washed away a farming village.
(Petty Officer 2nd Class Corey Truax is assigned to the USS Essex Public Affairs Office.)