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Canada sends disaster team to Philippines

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OTTAWA -- The Canadian military's Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART, was bound for the Philippine city of Iloilo Wednesday as the death toll from typhoon Haiyan continues to rise.

The Canadian Forces was also helping with the deployment of a separate 12-member Canadian Red Cross field hospital, while the Immigration Department said it would give special consideration to Filipinos affected by the tragedy.

The Canadian response came in the face of a rising death toll in the Philippines that rose to more than 2,300 across the country.

"The DART team is now on the way to Iloilo, which is one of the affected areas that has so far been less served by some of the humanitarian efforts," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said at the Philippines Embassy after signing a book of condolences.

Philippine authorities say Iloilo, one of two major cities on the island of Panay, was in the direct path of typhoon Haiyan and suffered 162 deaths and the destruction of 68,543 houses as a result.

In all, more than 530,000 people have been affected in the Iloilo region by the typhoon.

The Immigration Department, meanwhile, said Wednesday it would give special consideration to applications from Filipinos who are "significantly and personally affected" by last weekend's massive storm, which has left thousands dead.

The statement from Immigration Minister Chris Alexander's office also says Filipino citizens who are temporarily in Canada and want to remain will be assessed in a "compassionate and flexible manner."

Alexander's office could not immediately provide details on what the new measures would mean.

Canada's response to the catastrophe came after an advance team of planners arrived in the Philippine capital of Manila Tuesday to meet with authorities and determine where help was most badly needed.

That group preceded the DART, some 43 members of which left Canada earlier this week on board a C-17 transport plane that stopped over in Hawaii to await the details of its destination.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said a second C-17 with aid, supplies and equipment also left Wednesday.

"They will be able to assist governmental and non-governmental agencies in restoring essential services in the area," Nicholson said.

The minister said Iloilo was selected after consultations in Manila involving Canada's advance planning team. "This is a devastated area. There is huge loss of life."

Nicholson wouldn't estimate how long the Canadian military would be deployed in the region.

"We'll do whatever it takes," he said. "We'll play it by ear but we'll watch it very carefully."

Nicholson said the military was also working with the Canadian Red Cross to deploy a 12-person medical team and field hospital. The unit is a self-contained, general outpatient clinic that can provide basic health and surgical care to up to 300 people a day.

It includes 74 inpatient beds for ongoing observation and care.

Conrad Sauvé, the secretary general of the Canadian Red Cross, said it could take "a few months" for the medical team to complete its emergency intervention. Teams such as the one being deployed can spend as long as six months in the field, he added.

-- The Canadian Press, with files from The AP

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 14, 2013 A10

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