Marines carry an injured Filipino woman on a stretcher Nov. 11 at Vilamore Air Base, Manila. They are assisted by a Philippine air force airman. (Lance Cpl. Caleb Hoover / Marine Corps)
The number of Marines and sailors deployed to assist with the humanitarian crisis in the Philippines tripled to 270 following Friday’s Super Typhoon Haiyan, which officials now believe killed 10,000 or more people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
About 180 Marines and sailors left Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Japan, on Monday, for the Philippines aboard four MV-22B Ospreys and three KC-130J Hercules, according to a Marine Corps news release. The Ospreys are assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 and the KC-130Js are with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152. They will assist the forward command element and humanitarian assistance survey team, the release states.
Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, the deputy commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force and the commanding general of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, is overseeing the relief efforts. After surveying the damage during a helicopter ride over the city of Tacloban, which took the brunt of the superstorm, Kennedy described the devastation he had witnessed.
“I don’t believe there is a single structure that is not destroyed or severely damaged in some way — every single building, every single house,” he said.
The Marines and sailors who left Monday will join about 90 others who departed Okinawa on Sunday, with two KC-130J Hercules aircraft, also assigned to VMGR-152.
Those personnel were linking up with an advance survey team, and were expected to concentrate on searching for survivors both from the air and on the ground. They will also provide logistical support for the enormous humanitarian-assistance mission.
Super Typhoon Haiyan has affected more than 4.2 million people across 36 provinces in the Philippines, the Marine Corps is reporting. The BBC reported that the stench of rotting corpses fills the air as bodies line the roadways. Near total destruction is feared in some of the areas that rescue workers haven’t been able to reach, according to the BBC, with towns suffering 80 to 90 percent damage.
The storm hit just weeks after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Bohol Island in the central Philippines on Oct. 15, killing more than 200. The Marine Corps provided two water purification units for use in the Philippines then as the military there assisted with relief efforts. The service keeps equipment like the water purification units pre-positioned in the Philippines as part of a long-term operational assessment by the Marine Corps Forces Pacific’s experimentation center, according to Chuck Little, a spokesman for the command.
The purification units were also used after another deadly typhoon pummeled the country nearly a year ago, killing more than 1,000 people. It’s not immediately clear they have been utilized during these relief efforts.
Staff writer Andrew deGrandpre and USA Today contributed to this report.