The U.S. Navy is sending amphibious transport dock Arlington to provide assistance to Haiti as it recovers from a massive earthquake and subsequent tropical storm.
The ship is expected to arrive in Haiti “by the end of the week,” and is equipped with a surgical team along with landing craft capability, according to U.S. Southern Command.
“From the onset, we knew this was a massive earthquake, with potential for significant loss of life,” SOUTHCOM Commander Adm. Craig Faller said Tuesday, according to a Defense Department news release.
“A lot more search and rescue remains,” Faller said. “So, that storm impacted our ability to get out and about, but there’s been not as much flooding as we expected. But that Tropical Storm did drench the island.”
The U.S. military started sending assistance less than 24 hours after the earthquake, according to Faller. That support included dispatching U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft to gather aerial images of areas damaged from the earthquake, along with a 14-person situational awareness team from Special Operations Command South to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince Sunday to help assess the damage as part of the newly established Joint Task Force-Haiti. The USNS Burlington is also supporting the relief effort.
Navy Rear Adm. Keith Davids, who is leading the task force, arrived in Haiti Tuesday with other team members.
On Thursday, the Marine Corps announced that approximately 200 personnel from the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, had deployed to Haiti to support the task force and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s disaster relief efforts.
Additionally, the U.S. military has also assigned a total of eight helicopters — three UH-60 Black Hawks, three CH-47 Chinooks, and two HH-60 Pave Hawks from Joint Task Force-Bravo in Honduras — to provide medical air support. Four of those helicopters are currently operating in Haiti, and have been tasked with moving a Samaritan’s Purse surgical hospital to Les Cayes, per the request of USAID.
Coast Guard assets have also been involved in relief efforts, and Coast Guard cutters on station right now are the Reliance, Winslow Griesser and Margaret Norvell. Additionally, three Coast Guard H-60 Jayhawk helicopters have carried more than 150 search and rescue and medical personnel and 7,000 pounds of medical supplies. The medical airlift efforts have been credited in saving more than 85 lives, according to SOUTHCOM.
“I hope the message in Haiti is the U.S. and international partners are here to help them get on their feet and move forward,” Faller said.
Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency late Wednesday raised the number of deaths from the earthquake to 2,189, from an earlier count of 1,941, and said 12,268 people were injured. Dozens of people are still missing.
The magnitude 7.2 earthquake destroyed more than 7,000 homes and damaged more than 12,000, leaving about 30,000 families homeless, according to official estimates. Schools, offices and churches also were demolished or badly damaged. The Caribbean nation’s southwest region was the hardest hit.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.