News story

Helicopters begin delivery of aid to remote Philippine islands

Helicopters from HMS Illustrious have begun to deliver aid, personnel and equipment to small Philippine islands devastated by the typhoon.

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HMS Illustrious's Sea King helicopter being loaded with supplies [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Nicky Wilson, Crown copyright]

HMS Illustrious's Sea King helicopter being loaded with supplies

The helicopter and commando carrier arrived in the region to the north of Panay on Monday 25 November 2013 and immediately began surveying nearby islands to assess their needs.

Recce teams were sent to 3 islands – Calagnaan, Canas and Bayas – and found extensive damage to homes and local infrastructure with little in the way of long term food supplies.

Using her Sea King and Merlin helicopters, HMS Illustrious sent engineering teams of around 50 people to Bitoon in the south of Calagnaan to repair damage to a local school, clear routes of fallen trees and help repair battered fishing boats.

Operations battle captain, Captain Harry Hyslop, of the Royal Artillery, said:

We have a 30-man engineering team who have been helping to repair the school roof today and will continue tomorrow until lunchtime.

There are also personnel looking at repairing the engines and hulls of the locals’ fishing boats so that they can start to recover their livelihoods and, also, a third team equipped with machinery such as chainsaws to clear debris away from access routes.

Aid stored inside the hangar of HMS Illustrious
Service personnel in the hangar of HMS Illustrious prepare aid for onward transportation and distribution [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Nicky Wilson, Crown copyright]

Seven pallets of supplies were given to the community which included enough tarpaulin for 250 homes. The Sea King helicopter also lifted in a food pack which contained products such as rice, biscuits, cooking oil, tin openers, sardines, tinned vegetables, pots and stoves.

As well as Calagnaan, which has also been receiving help from an international doctor and missionary, recce teams found that the 3,000 people living on Bayas island had just 48 hours worth of food supplies left.

The village here asked for tarpaulins, wood, a disaster relief pack, water and a generator as theirs had been rendered unusable by the storm,” said Captain Hyslop.

This was a real success as we provided them with exactly what they needed to get back on their feet and then moved our team to the east to assess the needs of Sicogon island where they will now stay overnight.

The disaster relief packs are being put together by the team on HMS Illustrious and include wheelbarrows, tarpaulins, rope, hammers, saws, nails, rubbish bags, wellington boots and dust masks.

The helicopters are flying back and forth throughout daylight hours, with their air crew maintainers working during the night to ensure they are fully serviced for the following day.

Bags of stores and aid on the flight deck of HMS Illustrious
Bags of stores and aid on the flight deck of HMS Illustrious awaiting distribution by helicopter [Picture: Leading Airman (Photographer) Nicky Wilson, Crown copyright]

To maintain the high operational tempo, the Merlin flight crew, which is normally made up of just 14 personnel, has now been bolstered to 20 by 4 members of HMS Illustrious ship’s company and 2 maintainers from 820 Naval Air Squadron.

The flight’s senior maintenance rating, Chief Petty Officer Rab Butler, said:

Having the added manpower from 820 Naval Air Squadron and the air engineering department on board Lusty has allowed us to carry out maintenance at night, enabling us to fly all through the day.

We now have a 2-watch system which allows us to work around the clock and for as long as required.

HMS Illustrious had been taking part in counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa when she was retasked to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief in the Philippines.

Illustrious took over from HMS Daring which had been in the Philippines for a week delivering immediate aid to islands that had not been heard from since the typhoon struck.

Published 27 November 2013