A US CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter landed at Tainan Air Base at 2:25pm yesterday to join relief and reconstruction efforts in areas devastated by flooding and landslides caused by Typhoon Morakot.
The US military’s largest and heaviest chopper, capable of transporting a 16-tonne payload, is expected to begin helping with relief efforts today in mountainous areas that were cut off from the rest of the nation during the storm.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國), chief of the Central Emergency Operations Center (CEOC), said the helicopter was the first of four US military aircraft transported by the USS Denver — an amphibious transport dock ship — to waters near Taiwan.
From there, the other three choppers will also fly to Tainan Air Base to join Taiwanese operations.
The three other US military helicopters are another CH-53E and two SH-60s, or “Seahawks,” said Christopher Kavanagh, press officer of the American Institute in Taiwan.
“The four helicopters will return to the USS Denver at night after their daily work on the island,” Kavanagh said.
Meanwhile, another US military C-130 transport plane landed at Tainan Air Force Base around noon yesterday with a cargo of about a half tonne of calcium hypochlorite tablets for water sanitization, said Hung Wen-cheng (洪文正), a spokesman for the air force base.
The tablets will be transferred to the Centers for Disease Control, Hung said.
A C-130 also arrived at Tainan Air Base on Sunday, delivering 120 rolls — or about 6,800kg — of plastic sheeting for building temporary shelters during the reconstruction process.
Deputy Chief of the General Staff Wu Ta-peng (吳達澎) confirmed yesterday that the Ministry of National Defense (MND) recalled the plastic sheeting when the material was being shipped to a military unit in Cishan Township (旗山) on Sunday night.
Wu said the sheeting was brought back to the MND’s Tainan base because the CEOC believed it was “improper” to store the material in Cishan Township, adding that the MND and the CEOC should be better coordinated in handling foreign aid.
Mao said the US donated the sheeting without the government requesting the material. He said the CEOC had yet to decide which government agency should be in charge of the sheeting, adding that the government had very limited experience using it.
Beijing also offered large helicopters used during last year’s earthquake in China, but Taiwan declined the offer because of national security concerns, the Chinese-language United Daily News reported, citing unnamed defense officials.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FLORA WANG