CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — For the first time since Washington cut official ties with Taiwan in 1979, the U.S. military is dispatching humanitarian relief to the island to aid victims of Typhoon Morakot.
"In direct support of the U.S. Department of State, the Secretary of Defense authorized U.S. Pacific Command to provide assistance to Taiwan in response to the typhoon," U.S. Forces Japan spokesman Master Sgt. Donald Preston said Monday.
Two Marine Corps C-130 aircraft from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa have delivered humanitarian relief supplies and four CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters embarked onboard the USS Denver from Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, will provide heavy lift support, he said.
The first C-130 transport landed in southern Taiwan on Sunday with four pallets of plastic sheeting weighing some 15,200 pounds, for temporary shelters.
It was followed by a second plane that delivered 1,025 pounds of chlorine tablets Monday afternoon.
Taiwan officials said Sunday that the helicopters will help in lifting excavation equipment and other heavy equipment into mountainous areas cut off by landslides and floods caused by the typhoon that pummeled the island Aug. 7.
"The mission is to help reduce the further loss of life and mitigate human suffering resulting from the typhoon," Staff Sgt. Leo A. Salinas, a spokesman for Marine Corps Bases Japan, said in an e-mail response to a Stars and Stripes query Monday night. "Our focus is to immediately provide assistance to the people on Taiwan who are suffering and are in desperate need of help."
Officials estimate the storm caused more than 500 deaths, left some 7,000 people homeless and destroyed $1.5 billion worth of crops and property.