Medics On Portsmouth Warship Save Lives In Phillipines

28 November 2013, 15:27 | Updated: 28 November 2013, 15:30

HMS Illustrious in the Phillipines

Medics aboard Portsmouth-based HMS Illustrious have saved the lives of two children left with infected limbs in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, International Development Secretary Justine Greening has told MPs.

Infections would have killed the youngsters if the team deployed to the Philippines had not been in a position to carry out life-saving amputations.

Ms Greening revealed the medical success stories as she updated the Commons on Britain's response to the natural disaster, a storm thought to be one of the most powerful on record and which has left at least 5,560 people confirmed dead.

She said: "The medical team on board Illustrious has already saved the lives of two children on the islands they have been to who had wounds that were infected.

"They had limbs that unfortunately, very unfortunately, needed to be amputated.

"But that work has saved their lives so we can see the real effect of our Royal Navy in providing support to those who desperately need it. I think we should be very proud of the work they are doing.''

Ms Greening was responding to a question from Conservative MP Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford), who suggested HMS Illustrious could be retained by the Department for International Development as an aid platform when it is retired from active service by the Ministry of Defence next year.

The International Secretary said the suggestion was "interesting'' but warned of the costs involved in bringing it into reality.

Around 800,000 people are thought to have received help from the UK aid effort, Ms Greening said, while donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee's appeal have passed #65 million.

MPs heard the typhoon has displaced 3.5 million people and affected 14 million in total.

Ms Greening, who visited the Philippines last week, told the Commons as she opened the statement: "Our logistical support has helped transform the relief effort.

"Aircraft handling equipment provided by the UK to unload supplies from planes has doubled the airport capacity at Cebu Airport.

"The UK has also extended the reach of our overall humanitarian response through the deployment of the Royal Air Force, HMS Daring and now HMS Illustrious.

"This military support has been crucial in delivering relief to the more remote islands, including the provision of emergency medical assistance through the UK international trauma team.

"And I'd like to pay tribute to the outstanding servicemen and women of the RAF and the Royal Navy for their tireless efforts to help those hit by Typhoon Haiyan and to the NHS personnel working to take care of those injured and needing medical assistance.''

Shadow international development secretary Jim Murphy, who will travel to the Philippines this weekend, said: "I'd also like to join in the praise of our aid charities who are working there, the DfId (Department for International Development) staff and Government ministers as well as members of our armed forces who will now unexpectedly be separated from their families this Christmas.''

Mr Murphy praised the British public for their donations although he said officials on the ground in the affected areas had warned it could take up to 10 years to rebuild, adding: "It's vital we get this right.''

Mr Murphy also said DfId had not briefed the Opposition and his request for a phone conversation with Ms Greening had been refused.

He told Ms Greening: "I'd say this to you, as a former secretary of state, I've always held the view that the political relationship across the two front benches is largely set from that (the Government) despatch box, and I do hope I'm not going to have to adjust on this or any other issue to the fact that even my request for a telephone conversation with you was refused.''

Ms Greening shook her head following Mr Murphy's claim.

Later she said to her opposite number: "I think you've shown the tone of the relationship can be set by your side as well as ours, which is disappointing.''