Philippines Typhoon: Team Rubicon to assist victims


Team Rubicon gathered in El Segundo Sunday evening for final preparations before catching a flight at Los Angeles International Airport to the Philippines.

The team is a very unique and highly-specialized non-governmental organization. The local team is largely made of former military veterans and first responders who are using their skills to help others in the wake of disasters.

"I'm thinking about what we're going to see when we get there. It's always the unexpected. We hope that we prepared for everything and prepare of every contingency. We've got a great team," said Matt Pelak of Team Rubicon.

Even in a nation regularly beset by earthquakes, volcanoes and tropical storms, Typhoon Haiyan appears to be the deadliest natural disaster on record.

Haiyan hit the eastern seaboard of the Philippines on Friday and quickly barreled across its central islands, packing winds of 235 kph (147 mph) that gusted to 275 kph (170 mph), and a storm surge of 6 meters (20 feet).

Team Rubicon sent a team of 15 members to the Philippines Sunday night. The elite emergency response team worked around the clock for the past two days to get all the logistics and technical issues worked out. While their training is key to their mission, it's their dedication that is the driving force to race to the front lines of this devastating natural disaster.

"We're here because we want to continue to serve after we left the military, be around our brother and sister veterans, and go do great things around the world and save some lives," said Pelak.

The team was invited by the Filipino government to help out. Because of all their military and first responder training, they are largely self-sufficient. They don't need much support once they reach the hardest-hit disaster areas.

"We've been years building these skill sets and it's such a shame not to be able to utilize them, bring them all together and be more effective," said J.C. Greehan of Team Rubicon.

The team has been on the front lines before, having served abroad in Haiti, Chile and locally in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and Oklahoma tornadoes. This time around, however, they say that the number of casualties they've been hearing about may be some of the worst they've ever encountered.

"From the initial reports we've received, it's going to be massive, massive destruction. Unfortunately it looks like a lot of loss of lives, complete catastrophic events," said Vince Moffitt of Team Rubicon. "I think it's going to be one of the biggest, most tragic events we've witnessed so far."

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Team Rubicon is heading to the city of Tacloban, one of the hardest-hit areas, where they are hearing reports that 75 percent to 80 percent of the city has been destroyed.

An estimated 10,000 people in another Philippine town alone are feared dead. Officials think the death toll could climb even higher when emergency crews reach areas cut off by flooding and landslides.

Desperate residents raided grocery stores and gas stations in search of food, fuel and water as the government began relief efforts and international aid operations got underway.

A U.S. military plane carrying relief supplies and Marines has left Manila's Vilamor air base capital en route to the country's typhoon-devastated eastern seaboard. The C-130, which was headed for Tacloban, was loaded with bottled water, generators, a forklift and two trucks.

The members of Team Rubicon will be focusing their efforts on search and rescue and medical triage once they hit the ground. A second team is expected to leave for the Philippines later this week.

For more information on the organization, visit

The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.

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