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Military mobilizes relief aid across Asia and the Pacific


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POSTED: Saturday, October 03, 2009

The USS Denver, equipped with heavy-lift CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters and a contingent of Marines, is moving from the Philippines to Indonesia to be part of the relief effort after an earthquake killed more than 1,000 people.

Adm. Timothy Keating, in charge of all military forces in the Pacific, briefed reporters in a conference call from his Camp Smith headquarters yesterday about military aid for natural disasters in Indonesia, the Philippines and the Samoas.

So far, the Pacific Command redirected about a dozen Special Forces soldiers, who were already going to Indonesia on a scheduled training exercise, to help with an Indonesian Army damage assessment, Keating said. A Navy admiral is being sent to Indonesia to oversee the response efforts, he said.

The United States has provided $300,000 for emergency relief, dispatched a team to assess needs and has set aside an additional $3 million for assistance pending the full assessment.

The Denver had been part of the amphibious ready group, including the dock landing ships USS Harpers Ferry and USS Tortuga, which were diverted from a previous scheduled training mission with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade to Manila to provide emergency relief assistance following Tropical Storm Ketsana, which struck Sept. 25, said Maj. Brad Gordon, Pacific Command spokesman.

The Harpers Ferry, the Tortuga and the Marines will remain off the northern coast of Luzon because of the threat posed this weekend by a second storm, Typhoon Perma.

Gordon said that there have been 400 medical and dental assistance cases in the Philippines as of yesterday, and more than 4,300 food packages that can each feed four people have been distributed.

As for American Samoa, Gordon said there have been five C-17 Globemaster jet cargo relief flights from Hickam Air Force Base carrying supplies, food, power generation equipment, search and emergency vehicles, and rescue and mortuary affairs teams. Gordon said that several more C-17 relief missions from Hickam to ferry Red Cross relief workers to American Samoa are planned.

Keating said the USS Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Readiness Group is east of Guam ready to respond if Typhoon Melor proves to be a threat in the Northern Mariana Islands.