MARFORPAC addresses Philippine humanitarian assistance, disaster relief[MIGRATE]

By Lance Cpl. Ethan Hoaldridge | February 19, 2006


U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific held a press conference today to outline disaster relief efforts being conducted in the Philippines in the wake of the landside that occurred Feb. 17.

“In the last 24 hours, our units have been diligently supporting the Philippine government at the disaster site in the town of Saint Bernard on the isle of Leyte,” said Lt. Col Michael R. Ramos, the MARFORPAC director of current operations.

“Hundreds of Marines and Sailors from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade have been literally digging with their hands and small tools through the mud for survivors and victims of this disaster,” he continued.

Some parts of the town are buried anywhere from 30 to 100 feet below the mud.

An estimated 1,800 people remain unaccounted for.

MARFORPAC immediately responded by sending flights of supplies.

“We’ve delivered one plane of supplies and several others are in route carrying blankets, potable water, food and various other relief supplies,” said Ramos.

The U.S. and Philippine coalition forces have been working hand-in-hand searching for survivors and distributing supplies.

There is other help on the way to provide medical support as well.

Two U.S. naval ships, the USS Harpers Ferry and the USS Essex, with approximately 4,000 servicemembers, and 22 helicopters, are off shore of Leyte in support of the disaster relief efforts.

Marine forces were already in the Philippines for Exercise Balikatan-06, an annual bilateral training exercise, which this year focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

“Both our long-standing relationship with the Philippine government and its military, and the forward deployed capabilities of our units have enabled us to respond very quickly and efficiently to this tragedy,” said Ramos.