(by Jonathan M. Katz and Tamara Lush, WashingtonTimes.com) WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of U.S. troops and an aircraft carrier have arrived for the Haiti relief effort, and the commander on the ground said Friday that food, water, medicine and other emergency relief supplies are being rushed to earthquake victims.
Thousands more troops and sailors were en route.
“We have much more support on the way,” Army Lt. Gen. Ken Keen said. “Our priority is getting relief out to the needy people, to mitigate the suffering that the Haitian people are experiencing right now.”
Delayed for hours along with other flights circling over the severely congested Port-au-Prince airport, a second plane carrying soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division finally landed at the airport in the middle of the night — bringing the infantry unit’s total there to 155, Maj. Kristian Sorensen, a spokesman, said Friday.
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson also arrived off Haiti’s shores overnight carrying 19 helicopters, and it started flights off its deck, officials said.
The carrier also has water-purifying equipment and three surgical operating rooms and can do medical evacuations as well as ferry supplies and people to and from land.
The arrivals added to more than 300 military personnel who had arrived there as of Thursday and amounted to the first major influx of military from the United States, which has taken the lead in world efforts to assist the devastated country.
The U.S. Southern Command said there were about 8,000 personnel from America’s armed forces either on site or on the way as of Friday morning.
The 82nd Airborne was sending another 800 troops Friday and will have a full brigade of some 3,500 on the ground by the end of the weekend. Another big ground force was expected late this weekend — the USS Bataan amphibious assault ship got under way overnight and was stopping en route Friday to pick up Marines.
The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort was to leave Baltimore Saturday with some 250 medical staff, stop in Florida to pick up 300 more people and set off for Haiti Thursday.
The infusion of troops began as President Barack Obama declared himself determined to carry out a wide-ranging rescue despite the strain that such a vast undertaking invariably would take.
“To the people of Haiti, we say clearly and with conviction, you will not be forsaken,” Obama said Thursday. “You will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you.”
A primary challenge is the badly damaged seaport that will make it difficult for ships — carrying the kinds of mass amounts of supplies and helicopters needed in a natural disaster — to offload their equipment. An assessment team was looking at alternatives, including a port the U.S. Coast Guard has been using for some cargo.
…the White House has [worked] to show [that President] Obama has been intensely engaged since immediately after the quake struck. Details of evening Situation Room meetings, phone calls with world leaders and canceled events were being released almost hourly.[President] Obama himself warned it would take hours “and in many cases days” to get the full U.S. contingent to Haiti.
“None of this will seem quick enough if you have a loved one who’s trapped, if you’re sleeping on the streets, if you can’t feed your children,” Obama said at the White House, his second appearance on the topic in as many days, followed by a third later in the day. “So today, you must know that help is arriving. Much, much more help is on the way.”
Associated Press writers Jennifer Loven, Matthew Lee, Joan Lowy and Julie Pace contributed to this report.
Associated Press. Reprinted from the Washington Times. For educational purposes only. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at washingtontimes.com.
1. What is U.S. Army priority for Haiti, according to Lt. Gen. Ken Keen?
2. What kind of equipment does the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson have on board and how will it help?
3. How many U.S. military personnel are either now in Haiti or on the way, according to the U.S. Southern Command?
4. From what you read in the article, how do you think the mission of the USS Bataan, the USNS Comfort and the USS Carl Vinson differ?
5. The Associated Press reporters state in paragraph 7 “…the U.S. has taken the lead in world efforts to assist the devastated country.” Why do you think the U.S. has taken the lead?
6. Read the “Background” below on challenges the military will face as they work to bring in personnel and equipment. Also, visit the websites of the military ships already at or going to Haiti. What do you think of our military’s ability to aid Haiti?
ON THE PROBLEMS OF GETTING RELIEF EQUIPMENT, SUPPLIES AND PERSONNEL INTO HAITI: (from wsj.com):
- What little infrastructure Haiti had before the earthquake was badly damaged, complicating relief efforts.
- Supplies couldn’t come in by sea because Haiti’s main seaport was badly damaged during the quake, with the main dock partially submerged and cranes that move containers partially underwater and listing badly.
- The port “has collapsed and is not operational,” said Mary Ann Kotlarich, a spokeswoman for Maersk Sea Lines, a big shipper.
- At the airport, Haitian air-traffic controllers couldn’t handle the volume of flights arriving in Port-au-Prince, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, leading to a suspension of U.S. originating aircraft for at least a few hours on Thursday.
- The airport has also run out of aircraft fuel, so inbound planes have to carry enough fuel to be able to leave without refueling.
- Planes from Brazil, Spain and Belgium lined up outside the airport terminal.
- A handful of American military personnel sitting on the grass abutting the runway served as air-traffic control.
- Adding to the chaos, thousands of victims camped out at the airport, which was also without electricity for long stretches of time. On Thursday night, planes were still circling the airport for hours, while dozens of airplanes were reported to be scattered around the damaged tarmac.
- U.S. officials are analyzing whether other permanent or temporary strips can be opened up to provide additional places to receive airborne assistance.
- The Pentagon appointed three-star general, Lt. Gen. P.K. Keen, the deputy director of the military’s Southern Command, to head the U.S. military relief effort in Haiti. Visit the Southern Command website for updated information on the rescue and relief work of the U.S. at southcom.mil/appssc/index.php.
- Read about how the U.S. Military helps people around the world with the USNS Comfort at med.navy.mil/sites/usnscomfort/Pages/default.aspx.
- Visit the USS Bataan website at bataan.navy.mil/default.aspx.
- Read about the history, government and people of Haiti at the U.S. State Department website at state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/1982.htm, and visit the State Department page with information on the earthquake in Haiti at state.gov/p/wha/ci/ha/earthquake/index.htm.
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