Canadian troops land in Philippines, start relief efforts in Roxas
Published Friday, November 15, 2013 11:51AM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 15, 2013 10:17PM EST
Canadian troops have landed in the typhoon-ravaged city of Roxas in the Philippines, and are now delivering aid to the thousands who have been affected by typhoon Haiyan.
The group left CFB Trenton on Thursday evening aboard a CC-150 Polaris aircraft as part of the Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART.
This is the fastest Canada has ever responded to an international disaster, sending more than 100 Canadian Forces personnel and DART members to the ravaged Asian island.
Many, like Capt. Joss Zeisig, had only a few minutes to prepare before they were deployed.
“Twenty minutes, pack your kit and you’re on a plane,” Capt. Zeisig explained.
“We knew we were going to the Philippines. We had seen the news reports of the typhoon bashing into this beautiful island paradise. So we knew we were coming to the Philippines, but we didn’t know exactly where,” Zeisig said.
Canadian troops landed in the city of Iloilo and quickly made their way to Roxas, a coastal town where nearly 90 per cent of the homes were damaged or completely destroyed.
Response teams have set-up a command post at a nearby soccer field in Roxas and will be joined by additional Canadian troops who will deliver medical aid and clean water.
"While we're building our own camp and establishing ourselves, I'm very pleased to say that tomorrow, our time, we'll be pushing the first mobile medical team out to one of the evacuation centres where our NGO partners have identified a significant requirement for medical attention," Lt.-Col. Walter Taylor said in Friday teleconference.
Officials say 118 Canadian Forces personnel are currently on the ground in the Philippines and more are expected to join them with additional water purification systems.
Eduardo del Rosario, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, told reporters on Friday that the number of confirmed deaths has jumped to 3,621.
As many as 100,000 homes have been destroyed and at least 600,000 people have been displaced.
As rescue efforts continue on the ground, efforts are also under way in Canada to locate missing Canadians in the Philippines. Canadians with loved ones in the Philippines have asked for help in tracking down 185 people. Officials say they have found 110 of them so far.
Canada has also left the door open to sending more soldiers, depending on need. Officials say they plan to send a transport plane to the Philippines every second day to bring supplies and sustain the aid effort.
"As our capabilities continue to arrive in theatre, that capability, which is very small right now, will continue to grow each day," Taylor said.
He said aid efforts have been hampered by debris choking off access to many communities. “Really the most pressing concern that we see now is access to the communities."
"Aid is coming into the country but aid is starting to build up because it can't be distributed, because some of the regions are remote. The Philippines is a country made up of a number of islands and it's difficult to transport goods from one community or from a major airport into the different communities."
Taylor said Ottawa has not yet decided on whether to send up to six Griffon helicopters to help with transporting supplies to outlying regions.
With a report by CTV’s Paul Workman