A WEARSIDE sailor is set to miss spending Christmas with his family after being sent on a mercy mission to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan.
Liam Padgett, 19, had just completed a four-month training operation on board HMS Illustrious when the carrier was diverted to the Philippines.
The apprentice marine engineer had been on his way back to the UK from the Middle East, but he is now expected to spend the festive season helping to distribute life-saving aid in the disaster zone.
More than a week after the typhoon killed thousands of people, the UN has doubled its estimate of those left homeless to almost two million.
It is thought to have been one of the most powerful typhoons ever to hit land, with winds of over 195mph and a powerful storm surge.
There are still hundreds people missing, according to national figures, including some Britons.
Liam’s mum Julie, 45, of Seaburn Dene, said: “He was literally on his way back home when they got the call to the Philippines.
“We’ll all miss him over Christmas, but he knows it’s all part of the job and is taking it all in his stride.
“It’s what he’s always wanted to do, and we’re all so proud of him.”
The vessel will replace HMS Daring, already been deployed to the archipelago.
The carrier’s helicopters could be used to airlift food and water to survivors stranded in remote parts of the island nation.
The ship also has the technology to convert sea water into drinking water.
“It’s been his first ship deployment, the first time he’s been away at sea for a long period, so it’s been hard work,” said mum-of-two Julie.
“He’s already been away for about four months, and we’re not expecting to see him until the new year, but they’re all doing an important job out there, and we know he’s doing what he loves.”
The Ministry of Defence estimates that the Illustrious will arrive in the Philippines on Sunday or Monday. It has 900 crew and carries seven helicopters.
Liam, a former pupil of Monkwearmouth School and St Robert of Newminster Catholic School in Washington, will be given a hero’s welcome by Julie, dad Paul, 47, and brother Aaron, 21, when he finally returns home.
“We’re all so proud of him,” added panel-beater Paul. “We’re looking forward to seeing him.”
Holidaymakers Tim and Chona Marie Harding, of Fulwell, joined the relief effort in Manila with the Philippine Red Cross.
The pair were due to set off yesterday to the city of Cebu, now acting as a hub for emergency work.
Tim said: “We drove about 220km, which took about nine hours and 50 minutes, and we have a flight booked for Monday, which is the earliest time, to get closer.
“Already, people have died due to infectious diseases
“Fatalities have been to various reasons. Flying debris, infection, even hypothermia.”
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