WASHINGTON — American military search-and-rescue helicopters, surveillance planes and Marines streamed toward the central Philippines on Sunday to survey the devastation and assist survivors whose homes were washed away by one of the largest Pacific storms on record.
Typhoon Haiyan — called Typhoon Yolanda by Filipinos — may have killed more than 10,000 people, officials said Sunday, as it lashed the island chain with winds over 200 miles per hour and caused widespread flooding.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed the U.S. Pacific Command to deploy rescue teams, helicopters for airlifts, logistics officers and cargo planes to assist in the relief efforts.
At the request of the Philippine armed forces, the Navy was flying two P-3 Orion surveillance planes above the islands to help rescuers locate the most severely damaged areas and find survivors.
In a statement released Sunday, President Obama said that he and First Lady Michelle “are deeply saddened by the loss of life and extensive damage done by Super Typhoon Yolanda.”
“I know the incredible resiliency of the Philippine people, and I am confident that the spirit of bayanihan will see you though this tragedy,” Obama said, adopting a term commonly used in the Philippines that means communal cooperation.
On Sunday, some 80 Marines from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade stationed in Okinawa, Japan, boarded two KC-130 cargo planes bound for the Philippines, Col. Brad Bartelt, a Marine Corps spokesman, said in a statement. They were taking supplies and communications equipment.
The Marine Corps will also be sending MV-22 Osprey aircraft. The Osprey is shaped like a cargo plane, but can rotate its propellers vertically like a helicopter to land and take off without a long runway.
Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, who is leading the U.S. military's relief effort, is in the Philippines conducting an initial assessment. Kennedy is the commander of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
Assessment teams deployed by the U.S. Agency for International Development determined the damage is “severe in multiple locations,” according to a news release. In some parts of the central Philippines, 90% of the housing is gone, USAID teams have determined.
On Friday, acting Ambassador to the Philippines Brian Goldbeck issued a disaster declaration that made $100,000 immediately available for water, sanitation and health supplies. U.S. aid teams are delivering plastic sheeting and other emergency supplies to help shelter 10,000 displaced families.
Jeremy Konyndyk, the director of USAID’s foreign disaster assistance program, said in a statement that an initial survey by a response team found “massive destruction” on the island of Leyte in the central Philippines. The cities of Tacloban and Ormoc, he wrote, were “wiped out.”
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