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U.S. Choppers Rescue 500 in Central America

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 1998 – U.S. service members have rescued more than 500 Central Americans in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Mike Doubleday said U.S. Southern Command has sent 17 helicopters and four airplanes to Central America. About 500 Americans are participating in relief operations in Honduras and Nicaragua. The operation is headed locally by Joint Task Force Bravo in Honduras.

U.S. aircraft are participating in reconnaissance and rescue efforts. Local officials said the death toll from Hurricane Mitch could run as high as 7,000. Thousands more are homeless and others have been trapped by water or mudslides.

U.S. helicopters rescued about 500 storm victims since the hurricane hit. Doubleday said the aircraft -- from the 228th Aviation Battalion -- are UH-60 Black Hawks and CH-47 Chinooks. Relief planes include C-27 and C-130 transports. U.S. military officials have also provided some Zodiac inflatable boats to aid local rescuers.

Doubleday said more aircraft are arriving from Panama. He said it was too early to say what help the U.S. military will provide in rebuilding the area, but that Joint Task Force Bravo has been involved in infrastructure improvements in the past.

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