WASHINGTON — The aircraft carrier George Washington and four other Navy ships in Leyte Gulf in the Philippines on Thursday were preparing to begin relief operations for survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, Navy officials said.
Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, the commander of the George Washington Strike Group, said the carrier and cruisers Antietam and Cowpens will take up positions off the east coast of Samar island “to begin to assess the damage and to provide logistical and emergency support, including medical care and water supplies,” according to a Pentagon news release.
The Navy cargo ship Charles Drew transported more than 1,900 gallons of water and food supplies to an airfield in the hard-hit city of Tacloban, which bore the brunt of the monster storm that struck late last week, and will move food and water to Guiuan airfield in Samar province, the Pentagon said.
About 23 U.S. helicopters will ferry supplies ashore and fly badly injured survivors to the George Washington for medical care. Pilots flew excess planes from the carrier to a U.S. naval air station base in Japan to create more room on the flight deck for helicopter operations.
"These helicopters represent a good deal of lift to move emergency supplies around," Montgomery said.
The destroyer Mustin is heading to Ormoc, a port city in Leyte province that is a third focus for relief operations, in addition to Tacloban and Samar.
The United Nations said 4,460 people were confirmed dead from the typhoon, known by Filipinos as Yolanda, the Associated Press reported. The U.N. estimates that more than 11 million people have been affected by the typhoon, with hundreds of thousands left homeless.