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U.S. military aids Philippines rescue

October 11, 2009|Associated Press

MANILA — The U.S. military trucked in supplies and marshaled helicopters and Navy ships as the Philippines struggled with the aftermath of back-to-back storms that have left more than 600 dead.

Filipino rescuers said they still hoped to find more survivors in the stricken north of the country, but Saturday they retrieved only bodies.

With roads blocked and bridges washed away, the Philippine government's resources have been stretched thin.

Officials have asked U.S. troops in the country for an annual military exercise to extend relief operations.

Troops from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, based in Okinawa, Japan, had just finished rescue and cleanup work around Manila, which experienced the worst flooding in more than four decades after Tropical Storm Ketsana dumped record rains Sept. 26. More than 287,000 people remain in evacuation centers.

Then Typhoon Parma struck Oct. 3 and has lingered as a tropical depression for about a week, also over the main northern Philippine island of Luzon.

It has dumped more heavy rains, triggering floods and landslides that have killed at least 276 people, most of them in the last two days.

It has displaced about 170,000 people.

Marine Capt. Jorge Escatell, a U.S. military spokesman, said troops have trucked tons of U.N. food from Manila to a Philippine military camp in Tarlac province. Americans are to distribute it today to storm victims.

Marine CH-46 helicopters have also flown over the flooded region to assess the damage and find locations for a medical mission and food distribution. Heavy equipment also will be taken in to help clear debris from roadways, Escatell said.

Also, about 200 U.S. Marines and sailors are on standby to help in the relief mission. They are aboard two Navy ships, the Harpers Ferry and the Tortuga, off Pangasinan province, and in a Philippine military camp just south of the Cordillera mountains on Luzon.

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