Marines, sailors head for Philippines on disaster-relief mission
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — About 600 Marines and sailors with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade began leaving Tuesday to provide disaster relief to the Philippines, struggling to recover after two tropical storms and a typhoon displaced at least 168,000 people in the past week, leaving more than 1,400 dead or missing.
The 3rd MEB troops will deliver relief supplies to distribution points, the Marines stated in a Tuesday evening news release. The Philippine government asked for help after heavy rain, flooding and landslides almost destroyed the towns of Real, General Nakar and Infanta, the release stated, noting that Quezon Province and surrounding areas suffer from massive food and water shortages.
U.S. forces will stay in the Philippines to assist only as long as needed to help the Philippine government’s storm relief efforts, the release stated.
The U.S. Embassy in Manila announced earlier that it is providing emergency funds to the Philippine National Red Cross to help with storm victims’ immediate needs.
Also, the embassy’s Joint U.S. Military Assistance group was coordinating with the Philippine military “to assess and determine U.S. military resources that could be provided to further support the disaster assistance efforts,” an embassy news release stated.
“The United States and the American Embassy in Manila are very concerned for the welfare of the people who are suffering from these natural disasters,” the embassy said in its statement. “We continue to be in communication with the Philippine Government to determine how we can best assist.”
A Marine spokesman on Okinawa said Tuesday that a small team of Marines from Okinawa already was in the Philippines to “assess the situation.” An embassy spokeswoman told the Philippine Star that 14 Marines from Okinawa were helping in relief efforts and other U.S. servicemembers, already there for joint military exercises, would stay for another week.
Philippine news media reported the U.S. Agency for International Development donated $200,000, as well as body bags and plastic shelter material, to the Philippine National Red Cross. Francis Ricciardone, U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, announced the United States also would provide electric generators and helicopters to airlift evacuees from the more remote areas pummeled by the storms.
Ricciardone helicoptered Sunday over wrecked villages in Quezon. “The devastation was worse than I had imagined,” he told reporters. “It was quite distressing — logs everywhere, mud everywhere, roads were cut off in many places and bridges were down.”
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.