A group of 90 U.S. Marines and sailors is joining the search for survivors in the Philippines in the wake of the massive typhoon that tore through the nation of islands over the weekend. Their arrival comes amid alerts of a new storm heading for the Philippines, while rescue operations are still under way from the last one.
Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy is leading the Marines, from the Third Expeditionary Brigade stationed in Japan. They arrived in Tacloban on Monday afternoon bearing relief supplies aboard U.S. military transport planes. The troops will be aiding in search and rescue operations both on the ground and in the air, in addition to providing logistical support to other relief efforts in progress in the Philippines.
This contingent of Marines sent by the U.S. Pacific command is part of Defense Secretary Hagel’s call to provide support for the Philippine government in response to its request for U.S. aid after the typhoon.
Gen. Kennedy was on the ground by Saturday with a group of Marines making early assessments of conditions in areas hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan.
“Roads are impassable, trees are all down, posts are down, power is down,” Kennedy told reporters after surveying the scene. “I am not sure what else is there. I am not sure how else to describe this destruction,” he said.
In addition to personnel, the Marine Corps will also have a MV-22 Osprey aircraft, capable of hauling people and equipment, as well as KC-130J aerial refueling planes, at their disposal.
The confirmed death toll is estimated at about 1,000 and projected to climb to approximately 10,000 in central Philippines where the typhoon hit hardest, according to local reports.
According to U.S. officials, another 180 Marines are en route to provide further support for relief efforts in the area.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon also is coordinating with the United States Agency for International Development to coordinate aid for the disaster-stricken nation.
“Within hours, the U.S. embassy in Manila provided substantial financial assistance for health, water and sanitation,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a press release. “We are also organizing emergency shipments of food and hygiene supplies to thousands of families.”
The State Department also is working with Team Rubicon, a veteran led disaster assistance group, to engage ex-service members to join the relief effort. Over Veterans Day weekend, 15 members of TR were dispatched to Manila to provide search and rescue assistance.
“Roads are impassable, trees are all down, posts are down, power is down. I am not sure what else is there. I am not sure how else to describe this destruction.”
The Marines have a long history of being deployed to foreign countries to provide aid and support after environmental catastrophes and other disasters, a legacy that has been maintained in recent years.
A week after the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti, President Obama deployed 10,000 military personnel, including 2,000 Marines, to provide similar search and rescue and logistical assistance to local earthquake victims.
In the wake of natural disasters such as the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant meltdown after Japan’s 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, the U.S. sent a Chemical, Biological, and Incident Response Force of about 155 Marines to aid the immediate response effort.
Marine Corps engineers also have provided aid for recovery beyond the immediate aftermath of natural disasters—for instance, hundreds of Marine Corps engineers and Navy Seabees contributed to repair efforts by clearing debris in Sri Lanka in 2005 after the 2004 tsunami. The Marines also provided similar assistance after the 2010 earthquake in Chile.