Amphibious warship USS Ashland (LSD-48) and elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are bound for Saipan — at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — to assist in disaster relief following the devastating landfall of Typhoon Soudelor last week, the Navy announced Friday.
Saipan and the rest Northern Mariana Islands — a U.S. territory — were declared disaster areas on Thursday afternoon by the Obama administration that destroyed homes and left residents without water or electricity.
Though the devastation was widespread across the island — home to about 48,000 people — there were no reported serious injuries or deaths.
Now FEMA will coordinate the relief response which includes “the Government of Guam, American Red Cross, Ayuda Foundation and other non-profit/non-governmental organizations [that] have provided drinking water, bed sheets, food, generators, power lines and other electrical restoration supplies to aid in the effort,” according to a statement from the Navy.
Ashland — homeported in Sasebo, Japan — was on deployment as part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 31st MEU based in Okinawa when tasked to assist FEMA in the relief effort.
“We have precisely the capabilities and capacity, at the right place and time to respond,” said Ashland Commanding Officer Cmdr. Daniel Duhan in a statement.
“Along with the 31st MEU [Marine Expeditionary Unit], we are just one part of Typhoon Soudelor relief efforts. With the collaboration between the Navy, Marines, local and federal government agencies, we hope to make significant contributions to the effort.”
The ship is due to arrive at Saipan on Saturday.
Typhoon Soudelor is set to make landfall over Taiwan later on Friday.
“It is barreling down on Taiwan and winds will strengthen to around 130 mph by the time it hits at some point this afternoon U.S. time,” Weather Channel forecaster Michael Palmer said.
“There will undoubtedly be some significant damage, there will be some massive waves and flash flooding.”