Ottawa sending DART to Philippines after deadly storm
Published Monday, November 11, 2013 9:30AM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 11, 2013 8:30PM EST
Canada is sending members of its Disaster Assistance Response Team to the Philippines to aid the emergency response in the typhoon-battered country, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced Monday.
Baird told reporters that a C-17 airplane carrying between 35 and 50 troops – an advance component of DART—as well as equipment and essential items will depart Canada late Monday afternoon.
The advance team will work with Filipino authorities and decide how to use the rest of DART’s resources.
“We want to do all we can as quickly as we can to meet all the needs,” Baird said.
He added that Ottawa is moving “probably faster than we’ve ever moved” to deploy DART to a country in need.
DART, which specializes in basic medical care and infrastructure repairs, as well as water purification, was last deployed to Haiti after a massive earthquake devastated that country in 2010.
The Canadian Red Cross also said it will be sending its field hospital to the Philippines.
Ottawa has already pledged to match Canadians’ donations to registered charities responding to the crisis.
Earlier Monday, Canadian officials said aid is slowing making its way into the Philippines after one of the worst storms ever recorded killed at least 942 people.
As many as 10,000 are feared dead in one Philippine city alone, meaning the full extent of damage wrought by Typhoon Haiyan is not known as emergency officials have yet to reach some of the hardest-hit areas.
"The reports we are getting back are (describing it as), 'This is unimaginable, this is unthinkable. This is basically one of the worst natural disasters we have seen in decades,'" Hossam Elsharkawi, director of emergencies and recovery at the Canadian Red Cross, told CTV's Canada AM on Monday.
More than 9.5 million people have been affected by the typhoon and at least 600,000 have been forced from their homes.
Elsharkawi said members of the Canadian Red Cross are in the Philippines, ahead of the organization's field hospital which is expected to arrive in the next 24 to 48 hours.
He said the most urgent needs are currently for emergency medical assistance, clean drinking water and food.
"Aid is beginning to trickle into the country. But the logistics are a nightmare and will continue to be so for a number of weeks," he said.
Rescuers face roads that are completely blocked by debris, and airports have also suffered damage, both of which are hampering relief efforts.
Speaking to CTV News Channel on Monday afternoon, another Canadian Red Cross spokesperson, Pam Aung Thin, said “quite a bit of co-ordination” takes place amongst the various aid groups in the area after such disasters strike.
The first step, she said, is working with the local Philippine Red Cross to assess the situation and determine where the needs are the greatest.
“What we often see in these situations is that the local volunteers are the first ones on the ground,” she said, noting that these people would’ve also helped with evacuations before the typhoon hit. “But often times, these are volunteers and staff who are directly affected -- and whose families are directly affected -- by these events.”
Both Elsharkawi and Aung Thin said Canadians who would like to help are urged to make monetary donations to charities, rather than attempting to ship food or clothing that could "clog up" the logistics network. It can also help the Philippine economy in a time of need.
- For a full list of registered Canadian charities, click here
- To donate to the Red Cross' Typhoon Haiyan fund, click here
For more information on how to donate, visit the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development website, or consult the list of registered Canadian charities on the Canada Revenue Agency website.