Crew of HMS Illustrious prepare to mount huge aid effort

Scenes of devastation after Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city
Scenes of devastation after Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city Photo: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

HMS Illustrious' 5,000 mile diversion to the Philippines is now complete.

She will be focussing her efforts on dozens of smaller islands to the west, many of which have still received no aid in the 18 days since Typhoon Haiyan.

ITV Correspondent Dan Rivers reports:

On Monday morning local time we watched the grey silhouette of Panay island emerge from a tropical downpour. Soon afterwards came the welcome sight of another Royal Navy ship: HMS Daring, a state-of-the-art Type 45 destroyer. She has already been here for almost a week, helping where she can.

But the arrival of Illustrious is a game changer. It has seven helicopters aboard, a reverse osmosis water purification system that can supply fresh drinking water for a thousand people a day and 500 tonnes of aid.

Read: 'We all fell silent when we saw the dreadful devastation'

HMS Illustrious has seven helicopters and almost 1,000 personnel on board
HMS Illustrious has seven helicopters and almost 1,000 personnel on board Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

The list of items 'Lusty' - as she is known to crew members - has aboard is exhaustive:

  • 150 axes
  • 12,500 blankets
  • 20,000 candles
  • 3,300 tarpaulins
  • 100 tonnes of rice
  • 10,080 tins of corned beef, and so on

As I write, it is all being packed into massive bags ready to be hoisted under helicopters and dropped at some of the remote outlying islands. Each bag will contain enough to feed four large families for a week. `

HMS Illustrious leaves port bound for the Philippines with 500 tonnes of aid and an ITV News crew on board
HMS Illustrious leaves port bound for the Philippines with 500 tonnes of aid and an ITV News crew on board Credit: ITV News/Dan Rivers

Watch: HMS Illustrious crew en route to give aid to Philippines

But the real resource aboard is the crew. Nearly a thousand people, including highly capable Royal Marines from 42 Commando and dozens of naval engineers. They are itching to get stuck in, rebuilding homes, fixing generators, making electricity supplies safe and building shelters.

Among the islands which will be targeted, are the Calamian group where 93,000 people were affected by the typhoon and more than 6,400 homes destroyed.

Members of the Philippine Air Force survey the damage in Tacloban from the air
Members of the Philippine Air Force survey the damage in Tacloban from the air Credit: REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The Cuyo chain includes 50 islands, many exceptionally isolated. Only about half of them are inhabited but more than 4,700 people are thought to have been affected in some way by the storm there.

The Semirara islands will also receive help, where more than 1,300 homes have been destroyed and 12,000 people are in need of assistance.

It is a massive job, which will keep Illustrious here for at least three weeks, flying missions for up to 12 hours a day. It means the crew will miss Christmas at home, but none have complained to me; they all know the need here is enormous and they are proud to be part of the UK relief effort.

Read: HMS Illustrious sails off on aid mission to Philippines