Due to source error, the post was updated to reflect the current number of Army and Navy helicopters operating in The Bahamas.
THE PENTAGON – Over the weekend, amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5) joined the international effort delivering supplies, transporting U.S. relief personnel and providing medical evacuations from the Bahamas a week after Hurricane Dorian slammed into the island nation.
Since the storm moved past the Bahamas, the U.S. Coast Guard has rescued more than 300 people in the region with five MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters operating out of Andros Island, Bahamas. The Coast Guard also has five cutters in the area assisting with search and rescue operations and working to reopen ports, according to the Coast Guard.
Bataan wasn’t specifically requested to assist, but its helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft were determined to best fulfill requests for assistance received by U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said during a Monday press briefing.
“The requests we’ve been seeing right now is for heavy-lift aircraft analysis, the field evaluations, so an effort to help reopen the airports,” Hoffman said, describing how the Department of Defense has been assisting so far.
Four Marine Corps MV-22s from Bataan transported U.S. Air Force personnel to assess the status of Grand Bahama International Airport on Grand Bahama Island and Leonard M. Thompson International Airport on Great Abaco Island, Hoffman said.
“Secretary (Mark) Esper authorized NORTHCOM to utilize 20 Army and Navy helicopters to provide transportation logistics, and to conduct assessments of transportation nodes to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” Hoffman said.
The Grand Bahama airport is now C-130 and C-17 capable, Hoffman said. As of Monday morning, Air Force officials are still evaluating the status of Great Abaco.
NORTHCOM is leading the DoD response to requests for providing disaster assistance. The Bahamian government makes the requests to the U.S. Department of State, which asks various federal agencies to assist.
If requested, the Navy could start transporting personnel, heavy equipment and other supplies using a variety of ship-to-shore connectors, including aircraft and surface landing craft. Bataan can also purify up to 200,000 gallons of water each day with its onboard distillation plants and has extensive medical facilities aboard.
More than a week after Dorian slammed into the Bahamas, residents are voicing their displeasure with what’s seen as a slow government response to provide aid, according to a report posted by the BBC.
At least 45 storm-related deaths have been reported, and an estimated 70,000 residents need food, water and shelter, according to the BBC report.
Monday morning, 18 U.K. Royal Navy medics deployed to Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship RFA Mounts Bay (L3008), a Bay-class auxiliary landing ship dock. Mounts Bay started delivering supplies to the Bahamas almost as soon as the storm left the area.
“The shocking level of devastation which Hurricane Dorian has caused to the Bahamas is now becoming clear,” Royal Navy Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Jerry Kyd said in a statement.