WASHINGTON - The United States has mobilized an array of military personnel and equipment to the Philippines in the wake of killer Typhoon Haiyan, the Pentagon said Sunday.
An assessment team is on the ground to gauge the support needed following the superstorm that may have killed more than 10,000 people, Colonel Brad Bartelt, a US Marine Corps spokesman, said in a statement.
In addition, some 90 marines and sailors from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and two KC-130J Hercules aircraft from the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing left Japan Saturday for the crisis-stricken country, said Colonel John Peck.
The initial focus includes surface and airborne maritime search and rescue, as well as medium-heavy helicopter lift support, fixed-wing lift support and logistics enablers, according to both colonels.
Among the equipment that could prove to be particularly useful are MV-22 osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, they said.
"The MV-22 provides a unique capability in this type of operation: with its short/vertical take-off and landing capabilities, it can operate in austere environments," according to the statements.
Two US Navy P-3 Orion aircraft based in Florida and currently on a rotation to Misawa, Japan, have been prepositioned in the Philippines to assist with search and rescue operations, according to Bartelt.
President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle said Sunday they were "deeply saddened" by the loss of life and damage caused by the typhoon, sending their thoughts and prayers to the millions affected.
"The United States is already providing significant humanitarian assistance, and we stand ready to further assist the government's relief and recovery efforts," Obama said in a statement.
Authorities were struggling to understand the sheer magnitude of the disaster. The regional police chief for Leyte said initial government estimates showed 10,000 people were believed to have died in that province alone.
The United States held two large military bases near Manila until 1992, when it gave both up amid growing anti-American sentiment and a rental dispute.
A new agreement in 1999 allowed troops to return to the Philippines for joint military exercises every year.
Since 1990, the US government has responded to more than 40 disasters in the Philippines, according to the Pentagon.