Posts tagged ‘Disaster Relief’
U.S. Scaling Back
Nearly three weeks after first responding to the typhoon that ravaged the central Philippines, U.S. Marines are reducing their presence in the disaster zone as the need for their unique skills decrease, officials say. Priorities are shifting from emergency relief to long term recovery operations.
The area in and around Tacloban City on the island of Leyte was destroyed November 8 when Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Typhoon Yolanda) struck the area, packing winds reaching over 200 mile per hour. The island of Samar was also hard hit by the super storm. More than 5,000 people died during and after the storm, according to CNN.. Thousands more were injured and more than 1 million people were left homeless.
The first U.S. military assistance arrived on November 10 with two KC-130J Super Hercules tanker/transport aircraft carrying about 80 Marines from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (3rd MEB). The Marines’ MV-22 helicopter/fixed wing hybrid has also been flying relief missions in the Philippines as well as MH-60s Seahawks helos and Navy P-3C maritime surveillance and Air Force C-130 Globemaster heavy lift transport airplanes.
The were quickly joined by an eight vessel strike force headed by the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). The task force includes two guided missile cruisers, two guided missile destroyers and a dry cargo transport ship. On November 22, two amphibious dock landing ships – the USS Ashland and the USS Germantown – replaced the aircraft carrier and its 21 helicopters which delivered relief supplies including food and bottled water to devastated areas of the Philippines.
The Air Force has also been flying its large surveillance drone, the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk over the Philippines disaster area, to help relief workers plan helicopter landing zones and check the status of storm damaged roads and bridges, according to Maj. Ryan Simms, chief of remotely piloted aircraft policy at Air Force headquarters Executive Action Group. The high flying drone has completed three missions, supplying 50 hours’ worth of images, he told a session on non-military uses of unmanned aircraft at the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank.
The Ashland and Germantown each carry landing craft for moving large amounts of cargo and equipment ashore. The 900 Marines aboard the two workhorse ships bring heavy equipment which can clear debris.
Joint Task Force 505 (JTF 505) was created by U.S. Pacific Command on November 13 to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in support of the Philippine government and its armed forces.
At its height, JTF 505 included nearly 850 personnel on the ground and an additional 6,200 in the George Washington Strike Group. An additional 1,000 Marines and sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) also were sent to aid the Philippines. Personnel and equipment from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps have come from Hawaii, Okinawa, Japan and the continental United States, according to the Defense Department.
The British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious is also in the Philippines carrying about 500 tons of aid supplies and seven helicopters to deliver them, Sky News reports. Sailors from the HMS Darling supplied fresh water and other relief aid to starving, homeless villagers on remote islands, the Telegraph reported. Japan has sent three naval warships and more than 1,000 personnel to the Philippines on a relief mission, according to the website Euronews.
And Canada has sent a 200 member Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), including Canadian soldiers, three CH-146 Griffon helicopters and a water purification system that can produce 50,000 liters of pure water a day, reported Canadian Press via the Huffington Post.
U.S. humanitarian assistance — especially from the U.S. military — has been a goodwill bonus to America, which has seen its popularity battered internationally because of controversial drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and meta data collection by the National Security Agency. By contrast, China — which at first donated only $100,000 in assistance — suffered a public relations black eye in world opinion. Beijing scrambled to improve its reputation by increasing its aid donation to $1.6 billion and sending a hospital ship, the 300-bed Peace Ark to Philippine waters, the BBC reported.
Like many of its neighbors around the South China Sea, the Philippine government has been in a bitter territorial dispute with China.
Racing Against Time
In the typhoon-ravaged Philippines there is finally a speck of good news. The country’s president says the death toll is expected to be far lower than the early estimates of at least 10,000 dead.
But the region hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan is still largely cut off from humanitarian aid and rescue workers by debris, blocked roads and a near total infrastructure collapse.
The official death toll stood at 1,833 Wednesday (November 13) morning – including nearly 1,300 in the province of Leyte. At least 244 people were killed in Tacloban City, Leyte’s provincial capital, NBC reported.
On Sunday – two days after the storm smashed into the Philippines, packing winds of 195 miles per hour – a regional police official estimated the death toll could hit 10,000. But President Benigno Aquino told CNN that the figure might go above 3,000 dead. But “ten thousand, I think, is too much, Aquino said.
Meanwhile, hungry thirsty survivors are scouring the wreckage hoping to find scraps of food and water.
Rescue operations are being hampered by the devastation, the New York Times reported, with aid supplies piling up but few ways to distribute it. The are plentiful gasoline supplies but no merchants willing to sell it. And there is no place to house the growing number of emergency volunteers, the Times reported.
The Philippine government says it is facing the biggest logistical challenge it has ever encountered. As many as 11 million people have been affected by the monster storm, the BBC reported. Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said the government had been overwhelmed by the storm’s impact, one of the most powerful storms on record.
U.S. military planes have been arriving at Tacloban’s shattered airport, delivering supplies from the World Food program, which is then transported by helicopter to hard-hit areas. The BBC said a French-Beligian field hospital has been set up in Tacloban.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said 250 sailors and Marines from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) are on the ground operating from Philippine air bases. The Marines have four KC-130 transport aircraft and four MV-22 Osprey aircraft to bring in supplies and evacuate the injured and displaced. The key supplies include water, food, shelter, hygiene products and medical supplies. Another four Ospreys were sent from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Japan — bringing the number of MV-22s sent as aide to Japan — as eight.
The Philippine government says it is facing its biggest ever logistical challenge after Typhoon Haiyan, which affected as many as 11 million people. Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said the government had been overwhelmed by the impact of Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms on record.
Monster Storm’s Aftermath
Update Includes new photos.
A powerful typhoon struck the central Philippines Friday (November 8) and thousands of people are believed dead with as many as 600,000 left homeless, officials said.
Rescue workers struggled to reach ravaged towns and villages in the area Monday (November 11) as they tried to deliver aid to survivors. Quoting an area police chief, Reuters reported an estimated 10,000 people were killed.
The typhoon destroyed countless lives, houses and other buildings and left Tacloban, the capital city on the island of Leyte without power or communication on Sunday (November 10). Residents were running out of food, water and other vital supplies, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Relief operations were hampered because roads, airports and bridges had been destroyed or were covered in wreckage, according to the United Nations.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has directed U.S. Pacific Command to support U.S. Humanitarian relief operations – requested by the Philippine government – in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.
Initially, those efforts will focus on surface maritime search and rescue operations, transport of relief supplies by helicopter and fixed wing aircraft and airborne search and rescue, the Defense Department announced.
DOD is coordinating relief efforts with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Ambassador in Manila.
“The Department of Defense will continue to monitor the effects of Typhoon Haiyan and stands ready to help our ally recover from the storm,” the Pentagon said.
The storm made landfall in north Vietnam, near the Chinese border, the BBC reported. The typhoon still carried wind gusts up to 98 miles an hour (157 kilometers per hour) as if arrived close to the Ha Long Bay tourist destination.
Look, No Hands
A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter hoists an Australian airman on a jungle penetrating cable during medevac training on Multinational Base Tarin Kot in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province.
To see a photo slideshow of this training exercise, click here.
U.S. and Philippine Marines slog through a jungle obstacle course during Amphibious Landing Exercise 2014 (known as PHIBLEX 14) at Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Ternate, Cavite, in the Republic of the Philippines.
PHIBLEX is a bilateral training exercise aimed at strengthening mutual security and the long-term partnership between the United States and the Philippines. It also ensures the readiness of a bilateral force to respond to regional humanitarian crises.
The participating U.S. Marines were from Force Reconnaissance Platoon, Maritime Raid Force, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The Philippine Marines were with Force Reconnaissance Battalion.
Training was split between four areas: Clark Air Field in Pampanga; Marine Barracks Gregario Lim in Cavite; Naval Station Leovigildo Gantioqui in Zambales; and Crow Valley in Tarla. That exposed the Marines and sailors of the 13th MEU a wide variety of terrain.
The battalion Landing Team of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, and Philippine forces conducted vehicle maneuver tactics, live-fire training and artillery firing, as well as small boat tactics, jungle survival training, a knife fighting skills session and sweeps for improvised explosive devices (roadside bombs.
The 13th MEU’s aviation combat and logistics combat elements — Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 (Reinforced) and Combat Logistics Battalion 13 — provided close air, logistic and medical support to the Marines training with the Filipino forces.
The final event of PHIBLEX for the 13th MEU at Crow Valley was the combined arms live-fire exercise.
Meanwhile, Marine Corps and Navy personnel provided medical treatment during a cooperative health care event at Victory Village in the Philippines’ Albay province (see photo below).
Despite continuing fiscal restraints, the U.S. military is trying to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific region as part of the Obama administration’s strategic pivot from the Middle East and Afghanistan-Pakistan to Asia.
Another goal in current military thinking is to develop regional partners around the globe and have local militaries do the heavy lifting in future counter terrorism or counter insurgency operations, while U.S. forces maintain a “light footprint” in the conflict zone.
Countries like the Philippines, which asked the U.S. to close its bases there in the 1990s, are now moving closer to the Americans — particularly if they clashed with China over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
For more photos of the health event, click here.
(Updates with 7 aid workers kidnapped in northern Syria, four later released, 4 peacekeepers killed in Darfur))
The companies that that provide services ranging from translators to aircraft for humanitarian aid, peacekeeping and development organizations are meeting in Washington this week to discuss how to help people in an increasingly dangerous world.
That need was underscored over the weekend as seven relief workers — most working for the Red Cross — were kidnapped in Syria, according to the Los Angeles Times. All but three have been released but the continuing threat to aid workers in Syria and elsewhere remains.
And tree U.N. peacekeepers from Senegal were killed Sunday (October 13) in Sudan’s West Darfur region. Another peacekeeper from Zambia was stabbed to death Friday (October 11) in North Darfur. Nearly 170 U.N. personnel have been killed in Sudan since the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) was established in 2007, according to the Voice of America.
The International Stability Operations Association, which has members ranging from BAE Systems and DynCorp to IAP Worldwide Services and Global Fleet Sales, is meeting Tuesday and Wednesday (October 15-16) at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.
One of the technologies some peace and relief organizations are interested in is unmanned systems – unmanned aerial systems, in particular. Jessica Mueller, director of programs and operations for the ISOA, says non-governmental organizations and relief agencies are very interested in obtaining intelligence about what dangers await in the next village, where refugees have fled to or where the greatest need for food is in a vast region with few roads. She thinks unmanned drones could be a big help obtaining that kind of information.
Industry experts say potential platforms range from small versions of the unmanned aircraft use for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, to unmanned helicopters, like the Lockheed Martin K-MAX cargo helicopter system being tested by the Marine Corps in Afghanistan (see photo). Sikorsky Aircraft plans to produce,through its Matrix Technology program, variants of all its rotary wing aircraft that are unmanned and autonomous.
To read more on this topic see your 4GWAR editor’s story in this week’s Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine (subscription required).
Rocky Mountain High
Here’s the view of the Rocky Mountains from inside a Colorado National Guard UH-72 Lakota helicopter.
The view inside is pretty breathtaking, too. Look at all the switches above the pilots’ heads and the buttons and dials and gauges elsewhere in the cramped cockpit. Obviously learning to fly this whirlybird takes a lot of study and practice.
Now the few times your 4GWAR editor has flown in government helicopters we’ve been told “Don’t take photos of the cockpit instruments!” Come to think of it, we were also told that the first — and only — time we rode in an MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. Guess it’s O.K. now to show all this gadgetry in an Army photo.
This photo shows (left) Chief Warrant Officer 4 Mike Eger, a pilot with the Colorado Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Troy Parmley, a pilot with the Colorado Guard’s D Company, 3rd Battalion, 148th Aviation Regiment. They are flying over flooded areas as part of relief and recovery operations near Fort Collins, Colorado last week (Sept. 18, 2013).
More than 750 guard members have been working with local, state and federal authorities in response to flooding in central Colorado caused by heavy rains. The Colorado Guard evacuated about 700 people by ground and helicopter evacuations currently total 2,394.
As you’ve probably seen, read or heard, northwest Colorado has been deluged with flooding after days of heavy rains. U.S. Army units as well as members of the Colorado National Guard have been deployed to assist local first responders in evacuations, sandbagging operations as well as search and rescue. At least eight people have died as a result of the flooding and thousands have been evacuated from their homes — according to the Los Angeles Times and other news outlets.
Sometimes those rescues came at the end of a helicopter hoist cable.
In the photo above, Staff Sgt. Jose Pantoja, a flight medic with the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, assists an evacuee onto a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter during rescue and recovery operations in Boulder, Colorado on Monday (September 16). Pantoja is assigned to Company C, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. (Wonder if they call it the “Triple 4″?) The unit is based at Fort Kit Carson in Colorado.
The photo below captures some of the destruction caused by flash floods through mountainous country in and around Boulder where past drought and forest fire damage have weakened top soil and tree roots, causing landslides, mudslides, washed out roads and trapping residents in isolated communities on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains.
We confess a special interest in this story since your 4GWAR editor and spouse were just in this area last month for a little R&R after dropping off the blog’s in-house IT consulant for his sophomore year at University of Colorado-Boulder. (Said consultant has informed his parents he’s all right, although classes at CU-Boulder were cancelled for two days and some areas around campus were evacuated.) Many smaller communities in the mountains of Boulder and Larimer counties have only two-lane roads winding through narrow canyons for access, and when they are flooded, buried in debris or washed away residents have no way of getting out.
In the last photo, U.S. soldiers and airmen from the Colorado National Guard, along with members of civilian emergency response agencies, fill sandbags in Arvada, Colorado. More than 17 inches of rain fell on Boulder in just over a week. The average annual rainfall for Boulder is a little over 19 inches.
To read more about Defense Department efforts in the disaster (U.S. Northern Command and NORAD are both headquartered in Colorado) click on this DoD webpage.
Are Arctic shipping lanes for real?
A continuing concern of the five countries that border the Arctic Ocean is that melting sea ice will create — sooner rather than later — previously non-existent shipping lanes that could pose all sorts of headaches like oil spills and search and rescue operations in a remote and hostile environment with little infrastructure.
But Tom Ricks’ Best Defense blog notes there’s an article out by an experienced maritime shipping executive that pooh-poohs the idea that melting sea ice in the Arctic will lead to a “Cold Rush” of commercial interests at the top of the world crowding Arctic waters with cargo ships, tankers and cruise ships.
The article, in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine, maintains that despite record low formation of Arctic sea ice in recent years, “it is virtually certain” that the Northwest Passage across the top of Canada won’t ever be useful to international trade. That’s because transiting the Arctic may not be as cheap or fast as proponents suggest, according to the article’s author, Stephen Carmel.
Visibility may still be poor due to fog that is common in the region, winds can blow large chunks of ice into transit lanes. Neither the Northwest Passage nor the Northern Sea route across Russia can accommodate the largest container ships. Also ships will need additional structural toughening and and crews will need more training to transit Arctic waters — all of it expensive., says Carmel, a senior vice president with the Maersk Line and former merchant ship’s master.