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U.S. relief supplies, troops make way to Taiwan

Date Posted: 2009-08-20

U.S. military aircraft have landed in Taiwan for the first time in three decades, carrying relief supplies to beleaguered victims of Typhoon Morakat.

The devastating typhoon swept across Taiwan more than a week ago, killing more than 500, while leaving thousands homeless. Officials say damages total more than $1.5 billion, including $300 million in agriculture losses. The extent of the typhoon’s toll led the United States to order aid to Taiwan, the first time it’s happened since diplomatic ties were severed in 1979.

A pair of Marine Corps C-130 aircraft from Futenma Marine Corps Air Station were the first American planes to touch down in Taiwan on Sunday, carrying pallets filled with materials for temporary shelters. Additional aid is flowing this week, while heavy lift helicopters, CH-53 Sea Stallions, have been pressed into service from the Sasebo-based USS Denver.

The helicopters are assisting Taiwan with shifting heavy equipment, including excavators, to the heavily damaged mountain areas. Massive mudslides buried hundreds and inundated villages as the typhoon crossed the island on its trek toward mainland China. The mountainous areas have been cut off from ground transport as roads were wiped away by the mudslides and flooding. More than 80 includes of rain pounded Taiwan.

Taiwan’s government is actively pressing for American aid, as well as everything they can get from other countries. Taiwan’s president, Ma Ying-Jeou, has been criticized by his citizens for not aggressively seeking international aid immediately in the aftermath of the typhoon. Ma says he’d been careful in asking for American help, not wanting to put the U.S. in an awkward position with China.

An American Taiwan Representative confirmed the thinking, noting “The C-130 military carriers went back to Okinawa immediately after unloading the goods in Taiwan.” The helicopters will work Taiwan from their shipboard base.

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