Nov 142013

COLOMBO – Britain will send the helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious to the Philippines to help with relief efforts after super typhoon Haiyan, Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursday.

“I can announce Britain is sending the carrier HMS Illustrious to help with #TyphoonHaiyan,” Cameron, who is heading to a Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka, said on his official Twitter account.

Cameron said the total amount of British government aid for victims of the typhoon, which is believed to have killed thousands after it struck last Friday, was now in excess of 20 million pounds (around P1.4 billion).

Illustrious is currently on exercise in the Gulf and is expected to reach the Philippines by November 25, the British government said.

It will replace the British destroyer HMS Daring, which joined the aid effort earlier this week.

The carrier has seven helicopters–three Lynx, three Sea Kings and one Merlin–which will be used to distribute food and water.

The ship, with a crew of 900, also has equipment for converting sea water to fresh water.

Cameron said Britain was also chartering a Russian Antonov aircraft to transport 100 tons of equipment for rubble clearance and for the handling of relief supplies at airfields.

Britain has already sent a Royal Air Force C-17 transport aircraft to help the aid effort.

“What happened in the Philippines is an absolute tragedy. You can see the devastation, the suffering, and it’s quite clear that we are going to need long-term help for those people,” Cameron said.

Illustrious is the largest ship in the British navy with a displacement of 22,000 tons. It used to be a full aircraft carrier until Cameron’s coalition government scrapped its fleet of Harrier jump jets.

The announcement from Cameron came soon after the United States Navy said its aircraft carrier the USS George Washington had arrived in the Philippines to aid the relief operation. — Agence France-Presse

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