WFP's Deputy Chief of Aviation, Philippe Martou, wrote us last night about his experiences in the Philippines where WFP is providing helicopter airlift support to relief operations following Tropical Storm Ketsana and Typhoon Parma. The two storms devastated the region in the last few weeks. A new storm, Typhoon Lupit, is currently bearing down on the waterlogged region and will hit within the next few days according to reports.
WFP currently has two Mi-171 helicopters based in Manila that are shuttling aid workers and relief supplies to the hardest hit areas. The helicopters were transported to the area onboard the Russian built IL-76, one of the world's largest transport aircraft. You can see photos of the unloading here and more about WFP airlift activities here and here.
Below is Philippe's first person account after a day of operations:
Today, another day in the Benguet Province, Central Luzon.
We started the day in Manila at 05:00 to ensure we would be able to perform as many flights as possible before the onset of the afternoon rains which at this time of the year come around 14:00 local time.
Upon arrival at La Trinidad, Benguet University Centre, we quickly received confirmation of our tasking. We had to reach Mankayan, Bakun and Kibungan with Food and Non-Food Items (NFI’s) as soon as possible as those towns were in dire need of supplies. The towns had been cut-off from the outside world for nearly a week.
First, we flew two rotations of 1.6 Metric Tonnes (MT) and 2 MT of rice to Mankayan where we landed at an abandoned airfield located close to the town.
On the way back from the two rotations to Mankayan, we tried to locate landing sites in Bakun and Kibungan. As a result we ended up hovering between steep mountain cliffs with weather – clouds – closing in on us. Luckily, we managed to find a way out of the valleys and flew back to La Trinidad, Benguet University Centre. The site serves as a collection point for all relief goods that have to be moved to those by road inaccessible places.
Shortly afterwards we flew to Bakun where we identified a rice field which seemed suitable for landing. We managed to land on the field and dropped off 2.5 MT of family packs after which we returned to La Trinidad to pick up 2.8 MT for Sagpat, Kibungan.
Of course there is no aviation fuel in all those places so we planned our refueling stop at Clark Airport on our way back to Manila.
We landed in Manila just before 16:00.
It is days like this that make me proud of what we do and make me forget all the problems and bureaucracy we sometimes encounter while saving lives.
'That others may live' is the motto of the Search and Rescue squadron whose installations we are using at Manila Airport - a very appropriate sentence to describe our work.