FAA helicopters deliver aid to Philippines
Royal Naval Helicopters from HMS Illustrious have begun to deliver aid, people and equipment to small Philippine islands devastated by Typhoon Haiyan over a fortnight ago.
Using her Sea King and Merlin helicopters the Portsmouth based Helicopter Commando carrier sent engineering teams of around 50 people to Bitoon in the south of Calagnaan to repair damage to a school, clear routes of fallen trees and help repair battered fishing boats. Seven pallets of supplies were given to this community which included enough tarpaulin for 250 homes, weighing 10.5 tonnes. Sea King ‘Junglie’ helicopters also lifted in food packs which contained rice, biscuits, cooking oil, tinned food, pots and cooking equipment.
The 829 Naval Air Squadron Merlin, embarked in ‘Lusty’ as part of the international aid effort has today gone ‘feet dry’ and taken teams of Sailors and Royal Marines ashore. Having spent the previous day surveying the affected areas by air, in order to assess where the aid is needed most, a specialist team is now ashore and has prepared a Helicopter Landing Site (HLS) on the island of Calagnaan.
Working alongside other Fleet Air Arm and Army aircraft, the Merlin has been landing at the HLS throughout the morning, getting the dedicated teams ashore. Once on the island their task is to assist villagers restore buildings, transport links and ensure the much needed aid reaches all remote areas.
“The villagers have asked for tarpaulins, wood, a disaster relief pack, water and a generator as theirs had been rendered unusable by the storm,” said Capt Hyslop from 29 Commando Royal Artillery. “This was a real success as we provided them with exactly what they needed to get back on their feet.”
The disaster relief packs containing wheelbarrows, tarpaulins, rope, hammers, saws, nails, rubbish bags, wellington boots and dust masks are being put together by the Logistics team onboard HMS Illustrious.
HMS Illustrious has taken over from HMS Daring which had been in the area for a week delivering immediate aid after Typhoon Haiyan struck. The Naval Helicopters are flying throughout daylight hours, with their Air Engineering support working during the night to ensure they are fully serviced for the following day.
To maintain this high operational tempo, the Merlin flight from 829 Naval Air Squadron which is normally made up of just 14 personnel has now been bolstered by a further four members of ‘Lusty’s’ ship’s company and two extra maintainers from 820 NAS also based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose.
“Having the added manpower from 820 NAS and the Air Engineering Department onboard Lusty has allowed us to carry out maintenance at night, enabling us to fly all through the day,” said the 829 NAS Flight’s Senior Maintenance Rating, Chief Petty Officer Rab Butler. “We now have a two watch system which gives us the flexibility to work around the clock and for as long as required.”