Up to six helicopters may join Canadian Forces relief efforts in the Philippines
Published Thursday, November 14, 2013 11:00AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 14, 2013 11:38PM EST
More than 100 Canadian Forces members have left Canada for the typhoon-ravaged Philippines, officials said Thursday, and up to six Griffon helicopters may join them.
Canadian personnel are landing at an airport in Iloilo province, which is being used as a staging area, on Panay Island. The focus of Canadian efforts will be in Iloilo and Capiz province. The plan is to also focus efforts in the city of Roxas.
After officials determine how many helicopters are needed, they will be deployed to access smaller islands and communities devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.
Officials told reporters Thursday that of the 118 CF personnel that have left Canada, 64 are now on the ground in the Philippines, including 43 members of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). A C-17 aircraft also left CFB Trenton Wednesday night, stopping at CFB Comox, carrying 54 DART personnel and more equipment to clear roads of debris and help re-establish essential services.
The primary task initially will be to clear roads for humanitarian convoys, establish water purification systems and repair hospital generators. One of the primary concerns is to contain the spread of diseases such as typhoid and cholera, which will flourish in evacuation centres, where thousands of residents are crammed together.
The Canadians will be working in an area where an estimated 300,000 residents have been affected. Although the DART team is too small to help all of them, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations are also on the ground.
As many as 100,000 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged, while the local fishing and farming operations were all but wiped out.
International Development Minister Christian Paradis said the main objective of Canada’s relief aid is to help secure food, clean water and shelter for the thousands of residents who were displaced by the typhoon, which slammed into the Philippines six days ago. Officials said Thursday the death toll so far stands at more than 2,000, but that figure is expected to rise significantly.
Paradis also said Thursday that consular agents are available around the clock to deal with urgent visa requests or to help Canadians in the Philippines who may have lost their travel documents.