US helicopters lift aid to typhoon-ravaged Philippines
Iloilo, Philippines (AFP) June 26, 2008
Six US Navy Seahawk helicopters delivered aid to typhoon-ravaged communities in the central Philippines on Thursday as part of a pledge by US President George W. Bush.
The helicopters from the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier arrived in Iloilo City on the central island of Panay which bore the brunt of Typhoon Fengshen when it slammed into the Philippines on Saturday.
"We will use our air assets to transport relief goods into inaccessible areas," said Captain Thomas Lalor, deputy commander of the helicopter group.
"We are here to give the local officials whatever help they require."
The nuclear powered USS Ronald Reagan and its battle group have not yet entered Philippine waters, Lalor added.
The helicopters will initially bring blankets, food packs and generators to ravaged areas, Philippine civil defence chief Anthony Golez said, adding that US Navy personnel would also assess how they could help further.
More than 490 people died and more than a million have been left homeless by Fengshen, according to civil defence estimates.
The number does not include the hundreds thought killed when a ferry battered by the extreme weather sank carrying more than 850 people.
Bush ordered the carrier group to the Philippines during talks on Tuesday with his Philippine counterpart, Gloria Arroyo, in Washington.
"We want to help our friends in a time of need," he told her as they met in the Oval Office.
A US Navy supply ship, divers and a maritime patrol aircraft have already arrived in the central Philippines to help in finding victims form the ferry disaster.
The Panay provinces, which include Iloilo, Antique and Aklan, suffered massive damage and flooding during the typhoon with 277 dead and at least 251 missing.
More than 304,000 people are still in evacuation centres, the regional disaster monitoring council said.
Power and telephone lines are still down in parts of the island and the northern parts of Antique are still isolated due to landslides, the council said.
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