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Coast Guard sends cutters, aircraft to Haiti

Jan. 13, 2010 - 09:55AM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 13, 2010 - 09:55AM  |  
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Coast Guard officials in Miami mobilized cutters and aircraft Tuesday to positions in close proximity to Haiti after a magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck near the country's capital, Port-au-Prince.

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Coast Guard officials in Miami mobilized cutters and aircraft Tuesday to positions in close proximity to Haiti after a magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck near the country's capital, Port-au-Prince.

The strongest earthquake to hit Haiti in more than 200 years caused thousands of buildings to collapse in Port-au-Prince, trapping untold numbers in tons of rubble. Haitians piled bodies along the devastated streets of their capital.

Teams from across the U.S. government, including the Defense, State and Homeland Security departments, moved Wednesday to help victims of the powerful earthquake that struck Haiti.

Deputy national security adviser Tom Donilon convened a meeting in the White House late Tuesday with senior representatives from the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the Defense Department, U.S. Southern Command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Homeland Security Department, the Coast Guard, and national security and White House staff to coordinate the government-wide response.

The Coast Guard cutters will perform a variety of tasks, including providing communications, conducting medical evacuations, and delivering equipment and supplies, said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen. A cutter that was being repaired at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, also will be loaded with equipment to deliver to the island, he said.

Allen said the Coast Guard is working with USAID and FEMA.

"We deployed forces fast," Allen said during a question-and-answer session with reporters at the Surface Navy Association symposium in Crystal City, Va.

The 270-foot-medium endurance cutter Forward arrived off Port-au-Prince Wednesday morning, according to the Coast Guard. The cutter is equipped with a helicopter flight deck, satellite communications equipment, and the ability to provide coordination to military aircraft in the area. Two Coast Guard C-130 airplanes are flying the coast of Western Haiti doing damage assessments and searching for people in need of assistance. Two HH-60 helicopters are forward deployed to Guantanamo Bay and to Providenciales of the Turks and Caicos islands to provide rescue or other assistance.

Another task for the Coast Guard will be repatriating Americans who have become stranded in the country.

"There are a significant number of Americans down there," Allen said. "We're going to have to figure out how to get them out."

Other Coast Guard assets deployed are:

* The crew of the 210-foot medium-endurance cutter Valiant, homeported in Miami.

* The crew of the 270-foot medium endurance cutter Tahoma, homeported in Portsmouth, N.H.

* The crew of the 270-foot medium endurance cutter Mohawk, a homeported in Key West, Fla.

Related reading

* http://www.navytimes.com/news/2010/01/navy_vinson_haiti_011310w/">Carl Vinson, 6 other ships headed to Haiti

* http://www.navytimes.com/news/2010/01/ap_haiti_relief_011310/">SouthCom will play role in Haiti relief effort

* http://www.navytimes.com/news/2010/01/ap_haiti_navy_thorp_trapped_011310/">Daughter-in-law of retired info chief rescued

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