WASHINGTON - The United States is sending the USS George Washington aircraft carrier and other ships to bolster relief efforts in the Philippines after a devastating typhoon killed thousands of people, US officials said on Monday.
The Pentagon, confirming an earlier Reuters report about the deployment, said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had ordered the nuclear-power aircraft carrier and other ships "to make best speed for the Republic of the Philippines."
The George Washington is now in Hong Kong and was expected to arrive within 48-to-72 hours, along with other ships, including guided missile cruisers and destroyers. The carrier was expected to depart in the coming hours. Crew were being recalled early from shore leave, the Pentagon said.
With some 5,000 sailors and more than 80 aircraft, the George Washington brings enormous capacity to relief efforts.
Beyond serving a staging platform for flights, the carrier's water distilling plants can produce 400,000 gallons (1.5 million liters) of fresh water per day, according to its website.