As HMAS Tobruk steamed into Ormoc on the morning of November 26, a light mist hid much of the city’s devastation.
It wasn’t until the mist lifted and the ship anchored just offshore that the true extent of the destruction became apparent.
Trees that hadn’t been uprooted had been stripped bare of their leaves, revealing scenes reminiscent of a bushfire.
As far as the eye could see, houses had their roofs ripped off, but despite the widespread damage, Filipino kids were still running around the beaches smiling and waving.
Two Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIB) with divers from AUSCDT FOUR, and the ship’s boat carrying Navy Hydrographers, were the first into the water to begin their tasks of checking the conditions around the port areas.
A pair of 35 Water Transport Squadron LARC Vs (amphibious cargo vehicles) was next into the water, reversing carefully down Tobruk’s stern ramp, before setting off to conduct a reconnaissance of the shore line.
One LARC drove onto a beach near the city centre and instantly drew a large crowd of interested onlookers, many of them children.
While recces were being conducted the Ship’s Army Detachment (SAD) lowered two LCM-8s into the water, causing the big ship to list to starboard briefly.
Later, LARCs ferried elements of 3 Combat Engineer Regiment ashore. With the arrival of HMAS Tobruk, the next stage of Operation PHILIPPINES ASSIST is well under way.
Further information is available on the Operation PHILIPPINES ASSIST website at http://www.defence.gov.au/operations/philippinesassist/home.asp.