A Navy aviation structural mechanic airman signals the pilots of an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter to deliver cargo to the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) during a replenishment at sea on Oct. 14. The United States is sending the aircraft carrier and other Navy vessels to aid the typhoon-stricken Philippines. (MCS 3rd Class Ramon G. Go / Navy)
The Pentagon is dispatching its ready-duty flattop in the Asia-Pacific region and three escort ships to provide relief and support to the typhoon-stricken Philippines, the U.S. Pacific Fleet said Monday evening.
The order from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel cuts short a Hong Kong port visit by one day for the ships: aircraft carrier George Washington, cruisers Cowpens and Antietam, and destroyer Mustin. The crews have been recalled from liberty and are getting ready to “make best speed” for the disaster zone, according to a Defense Department news release, a journey that will take about two days.
“We’re going to get George Washington underway from Hong Kong early,” said Pacific Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Steve Curry. “They’re making preparations to get underway this evening, Hawaii-time.”
The Philippines government has requested relief from the U.S., whose assets are being directed by Marine Corps Forces Pacific, after what is believed to be one of the worst storms in Philippines history, Typhoon Haiyan.
The ships will be joined by supply ships Charles Drew and Richard E. Byrd, Curry said. A second destroyer, the Lassen, also got underway Sunday and is headed to the Philippines, where up to 13-feet of typhoon surge wiped away seaside homes and dragged residents out to sea. The death toll is feared to be in the thousands.
“The Marines are there now,” Curry said. “We’re positioning our ships to get down that way to assist, if needed.”