WASHINGTON, November 11, 2013 (AFP) – US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and other American ships to head to the typhoon-stricken Philippines, the Pentagon said Monday.
The carrier, which has 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft aboard, is currently in Hong Kong for a port visit. The crew is being recalled early from shore leave and the ship is expected to be underway later this evening, the Pentagon said in a statement.
“In company with the carrier will be the cruisers USS Antietam and USS Cowpens and the destroyer USS Mustin. The supply ship USNS Charles Drew is already underway and will rendezvous with the group as they get closer,” it said, noting the ships should be on station within 48-72 hours.
The USS Lassen, also a destroyer, got underway Sunday for the region.
On board the USS George Washington are sailors and “aircraft designed to perform various functions including disaster relief,” including the Sea Combat Squadron 12 flying the MH-60S Seahawk helicopter; and the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 77.
“As needed, these ships and aircraft will be able to provide humanitarian assistance, supplies, and medical care in support of the ongoing efforts led by the government and military of the Republic of the Philippines,” the Pentagon said.
The United States said earlier Monday that it was providing $20 million in humanitarian aid as well as additional troops to help out in the Philippines after the devastating hit of Typhoon Haiyan.
The Defense Department is continuing to work closely with the Philippine government to determine what, if any, additional assets may be required, the Pentagon added.