Members of Canada’s disaster relief team bound for typhoon-ravaged Philippines

OTTAWA – Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team is being sent to the Philippines in the wake of last week’s catastrophic typhoon, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says.

The rapid-response team, known as DART, comprises 200 Canadian Forces personnel and was last deployed following the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010.

A Canadian Forces C-17 is leaving from CFB Trenton, east of Toronto, with between 35 and 50 members of the DART on board, along with much of their gear, Baird told a news conference in the House of Commons foyer.

“The first plane will leave within hours and it will bring personnel and equipment,” he said.

“Obviously, due to the scale and the scope (of the disaster), we will be working with our Filipino counterparts to determine what else is required, how many additional resources. Obviously we’ll do all we can.”

The DART has four specific areas of specialty: basic medical care, water purification, basic infrastructure repairs such as roads and electricity and streamlining communications systems for aid efforts.

The team will work with local authorities as well as other aid groups and the Philippines armed forces to determine how best they can help, he added — noting the speed with which the federal government took action.

“We’re not getting into arcane bureaucratic discussions about paperwork and whatnot,” Baird said. “There’s people who need our help and we’re going to do everything we can to provide assistance.”

The federal government has already promised up to $5 million in aid money and has pledged to match donations to relief organizations, he added, encouraging Canadians to open up their wallets to help.

“The one thing I would suggest more than anything is to take the government up on its offer,” he said.

“We will match dollar-for-dollar donations made to registered Canadian charities. Canadians have been generous in previous devastating events like this, and we hope they’ll be generous.”

The true scale of devastation wrought Friday by typhoon Haiyan has yet to emerge, but some estimates put the death toll in the thousands, with hundreds of thousands badly affected.

The Philippine military has confirmed 942 dead, but shattered communications, transportation links and local governments suggest a final toll — which some say could reach 10,000 — remains days away.

Haiyan, already described as one of the most powerful recorded typhoons to ever hit land, is believed to be the deadliest natural disaster to strike the Philippines.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.