Hospital ship Mercy heading to Philippines

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SAN DIEGO — The USNS Mercy received orders Wednesday afternoon to prepare to aid the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, Navy officials said.

The Mercy, a hospital ship, is preparing for the mission and could leave San Diego within five days if ordered to deploy, said Military Sealift Command spokeswoman Sarah Burford. Navy officials said it could arrive in the Philippines sometime in December.

The San Diego-based guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens left a port stop in Hong Kong early to sail to the Phillipines, along with other vessels in the USS George Washington Aircraft Carrier Battle Group. Okinawa-based Marines have been in the Philippines for several days now.

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When it struck Friday, Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Yolanda, flattened entire towns, layered debris over roads and knocked airports out of commission.

The storm destroyed at least 80,000 homes, according to the latest Philippine government accounting. Although estimates of the number left homeless vary, the Philippine government puts it at more than 582,000.

The Mercy was also sent on humanitarian missions to aid earthquake victims in Haiti in 2010 and Tsunami victims in Indonesian in 2005.

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