WASHINGTON – The U.S. military on Friday dispatched at least two warships and other forces to the scene of a deadly landslide in the eastern Philippines to provide medical assistance and other relief, officials said.
The United States also is sending money requested by the Philippine government to help pay for search and rescue operations, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said. He did not say how much would be sent.
"We will continue to coordinate our response efforts with the government of the Philippines and look for ways to best support them in this hour of need," Duffy told reporters traveling on Air Force One to Florida with President Bush.
A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Brian Maka, said that in response to a Philippine government request, the U.S. military was dispatching the USS Essex and the USS Harper's Ferry, and possibly other ships. He said Army and Marine Corps ground forces that happened to be in the Philippines also were available to help.
Maka said it was not immediately clear how many U.S. troops would be sent to the disaster scene but he said nearly 6,000 happened to be in the region as participants in the annual "Balikatan" exercise with the Philippine military.
Maka said the U.S. ground forces in the Philippines were from the Guam National Guard as well as the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and the U.S. Army Pacific. U.S. Air Force transport planes also were available there, he said.
Bush was informed by aides about the mudslide Friday morning.
"The United States expresses our sincere condolences to the people of the Philippines for the loss of the life and the suffering of other victims, family members and loved ones," Duffy said. "We hope and pray that ongoing search and rescue operations will help save as many lives as possible."