The U.S. Navy is preparing two amphibious warships to join the disaster relief effort in the Philippines, Navy officials told USNI News on Wednesday.
USS Germantown (LSD-42) and USS Ashland (LSD-48) will shortly depart from Naval Station Sasebo, Japan and will arrive sometime next week.
On the way the ships will pick up elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31 MEU) from Okinawa.
The Whidbey Island-class (LSD-41) ships can field a surge capacity of up to 500 Marines per ship, four Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercrafts and a flight deck for cargo helicopters.
The amphibious ships will join USS George Washington (CVN-73) and partial carrier strike group (CSG) currently steaming toward the islands. The CSG is also accompanied by the supply ship USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE-10).
Marines have also sent elements of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) and several cargo planes and helicopters. There are also a team of 19 Navy SEABEES currently in the country.
“You are not just going to see Marines and a few planes and some helicopters,” Marine Brig Gen. Paul Kennedy said in a report from The Associated Press.
“You will see the entire Pacific Command respond to this crisis.”
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III told CNN the death toll could be 2,000 to 2,500 — much lower than earlier unofficial estimates of 10,000.
At least 580,000 people have been displaced following the landfall of Super Typhoon Haiyan that struck the islands of Samar and Leyte, according to the report from the AP.