HONG KONG — A U.S. aircraft carrier and supporting ships hastily left Hong Kong on Tuesday as part of an international effort to save famished survivors in the typhoon-ravaged Philippines.
The carrier group led by the USS George Washington and its 7,000 sailors will "make best speed" to the devastated areas, said a captain of one of the ships, as fears mount for survivors scrabbling for basic necessities.
The fleet's helicopters and aircraft will deliver aid from ship to shore, shuttling back and forth to provide supplies such as water, food, and medical supplies.
"It's a complete aircraft carrier strike group going into the area. That's a pretty sizable response," said Captain Tom Disy, whose ship the USS Antietam was moored next to one of Hong Kong's major shopping malls.
The carrier group arrived in Hong Kong late last week on a routine rest and recreation port visit and was originally scheduled to depart on Wednesday.
But sailors had be recalled from shore leave within 24 hours before the ships left at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
"Our sympathies are strongly with the people of the Philippines and we will take it as it comes," Disy said.
The carrier group will join U.S. Marines already deployed to the Philippines. An advance guard of 90 arrived in the devastated city of Tacloban Monday.
Hong Kong is a regular shore leave destination for the U.S. Navy.