Three U.S. Navy ships and more Marine aircraft have joined in the U.S. effort for disaster relief in Haiti, Pentagon officials said on Tuesday.
The military is on station to support the U.S. Agency for International Development relief effort following the Aug. 14 earthquake. The military response is led by Rear Adm. Keith Davids, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command South.
Amphibious warship USS Arlington (LPD-24) has been off the coast of Haiti since earlier this week and is operating with the Spearhead-class fast transport USNS Burlington (T-EPF-10) and Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship USS Billings (LCS-15).
The two ships were deployed to U.S. 4th Fleet to support the ongoing counter-narcotics operation in U.S. Southern Command.
“Burlington is utilizing its ScanEagle unmanned aerial system (UAS) to obtain aerial images of the destruction on the ground which helps relief planners determine where supplies are needed, what airfields can be used, and what roadways are accessible,” 4th Fleet said in a statement.
In addition, several Coast Guard cutters and aircraft are supporting the USAID operation.
Arlington embarked with Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 2 to buttress the ship’s existing medical staff, adding more surgery capability and an intensive care unit. Additionally, the ship embarked with a Landing Craft Utility and two MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopters.
“Four United States Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys arrived to provide additional options for personnel and supply movement. These air assets are in addition to the 18 U.S. military and Coast Guard aircraft already supporting humanitarian relief operations. U.S. maritime vessels continue support also,” Army Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor told Pentagon reporters on Tuesday.
“Over the last 24 hours, Joint Task Force Haiti conducted 56 missions, assisted in the saving of 40 lives and delivered more than 35,000 pounds of goods, supplies and medical supplies.”
As of Tuesday, the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that centered on the southwestern Tiburon Peninsula has “killed at least 2,207 people, injured 12,268 and destroyed nearly 53,000 houses,” according to The Associated Press.
The U.S. response this time around is much smaller than the 2010 Navy and Marine Corps operation following an earthquake that killed 200,000 and destroyed much of Haiti’s capital, Port au Prince.
The Navy sent carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-71) – in addition to amphibious ships USS Bataan (LHD-5), USS Carter Hall (LSD-50), USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43), USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44), USS Nassau (LHA-4), USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19), and USS Ashland (LSD-48) – to support the three-month operation.
Last week, USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance assistant administrator Sarah Charles told reporters they did not expect the destruction to be on the same scale.