Ottawa has sent a disaster-response team to help with typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines.
Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team, known as DART, is made up of Canadian Forces personnel who are trained to respond quickly to humanitarian emergencies abroad. The team’s most recent deployment was after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Typhoon Haiyan set off landslides and knocked out power to a large region of the Philippines, making it the damage difficult to assess. Early estimates indicate about 10,000 people were killed in the coastal city of Tacloban alone.
Canada sent an advance team of eight to the Philippines on Sunday to assess immediate needs and determine Canada can do. The DART team departed CFB Trenton on Monday evening, heading to Hawaii to await recommendations on where to deploy. The plane carried more than 40 staff, communications equipment, and three vehicles, including an ambulance, a mobile command post and a forklift.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided to send DART even before an official request was received from the Philippines.
“Obviously, we’ve moved incredibly fast, probably faster than we’ve ever moved,” Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said on Monday. “And we’re not going to get into arcane bureaucratic discussions about paperwork and what not. There’s people who need our help, and we’re going to do all we can to provide assistance.”
About 800,000 people of Filipino descent live in Canada, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, and the country has become Canada’s largest source of immigrants in recent years.
An estimated 9.5 million people have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Many of the more than 600,000 people displaced are in evacuation camps. DART primarily works on providing medical care, clean drinking water, infrastructure and communication assistance.
In addition to the DART deployment, the federal government has also promised up to $5-million in aid and is matching cash donations from individual Canadians.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke with the president of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III, on Monday morning, and Mr. Baird said he would speak with his counterpart in the Philippines on Monday evening.
Senator Tobias Enverga, the first Canadian of Filipino origin to be appointed to the Senate, said he spent Monday helping with efforts to gather canned goods and cash donations. He has also been trying to help people get in touch with relatives in typhoon-affected areas.
He said he is encouraging people to donate money because it can be sent much more quickly than supplies. “For immediate needs, we want some cash so we can send it to the appropriate places in the Philippines,” the the Conservative senator said.
Before the DART announcement, Mr. Enverga said he was pleased the government offered funding over the weekend, but added that he hopes the amount will increase once the damage becomes more clear. “Hopefully it’s just the initial contribution, or aid, based on their assessment at that time,” he said.
Mr. Enverga, who grew up in a city about two hours southeast of Manila, was appointed to the Senate in the fall of 2012. He said he witnessed damage from many storms, but the devastation from Typhoon Haiyan is different.
“It’s like a funeral for a lot of us,” he said of Canada’s Filipino community. “We’re so sad about what’s happening. I know we’re so used to typhoons, but we’ve never had something like this before.”