Local Marines Saving Lives In Flood Ravaged Pakistan

The 15th MEU is delivering meals and flying out the wounded

By Susan Taylor
|  Thursday, Aug 19, 2010  |  Updated 7:46 AM PDT
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Salute to the Marines and Sailors on the USS Peleliu

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Salute to the Marines and Sailors on the USS Peleliu

The USS Peleliu is off the port of Karachi in Pakistan providing flood relief.
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Camp Pendleton based Marines and Sailors running humanitarian aid efforts in Pakistan are hoping the weather holds long enough to reach thousands of flood victims who are still stranded.

"As the floods came down it knocked out virtually every bridge along the way as well as along the road infrastructure that runs alongside the river," said Lt. colonel Todd Oneto, Commanding Officer of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit Air Wing. "It's all just gone so there's a lot of isolated pockets of people."

The 15th MEU arrived in the region with USS Peleliu six days ago. About 200 Marines are working around the clock to keep 15 helicopters in the air.

Heat, humidity, and high altitudes are taking their toll on the aircraft but they've still managed to deliver more than 400,000 pre-packaged meals in the last 24 hours.  So far more than 5,000 people have been flown to safety.

Lt. Col. Oneto says it's hard not to be moved by this experience.

"When you bring food or water into a people who have not had it for who knows how long, days to weeks and you see the look on their face. Or when you're pulling these people out these isolated areas and pulling them back to some sort of civilization. When you see that mother and father their running to the aircraft holding their children in their arms, I mean I'm getting chills right now,” Lt. Col. Oneto said.

USS Peleliu is expected to remain in the area for at least the next month. 

“It is something that you will never forget and it's probably something that will be looked fondly upon you for the rest of your life," Lt. Col. Oneto said.

More than 1,500 people have died in what's being called the worst flooding in Pakistan's history.

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