U.S. Aid Effort in Mozambique Hits Full Stride
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 15, 2000 A total of 700 U.S. service members are now helping provide food, medicine and shelter to thousands of Mozambicans driven from their homes by flooding, Pentagon officials said March 14.
The service members are part of Task Force Atlas Response, Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said. U.S. personnel will be in Mozambique at least 30 days. A total of $38 million has been earmarked for the military operation in south Africa. State Department officials said the United States has provided another $50 million in aid.
The U.S. European Command task force is operating in Mozambique from the capital of Maputo and the port of Beira, and from Hoedspruit, South Africa. Commander is Air Force Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Wehrle Jr., normally commander of the 3rd Air Force at RAF Mildenhall, England. All services are represented in the effort.
U.S. transport aircraft are delivering food, clean drinking water, medicine and tents to stricken areas in the country. They've flown 145 sorties to date, hauling 183 tons of cargo, supplies and equipment and 445 people.
U.N. officials said cyclones caused flooding that has hit the central and southern parts of the country hardest. Floods have displaced more than 325,000 people, now gathered at 97 “humanitarian accommodation centers” throughout the country. Mozambique officials have confirmed 500 dead and fear the number “will climb into the thousands,” said officials in their embassy here.
The United States has two Keen Sage C-130 aircraft assisting local and international relief organizations. The aircraft carry video imagery equipment that “has been very helpful … in getting a good, accurate, near-real-time picture of conditions on the ground,” Quigley said. "We can take a real good aerial look at flooding conditions, what are rivers doing, what is the impact of additional rain upstream having on the rivers' levels, and what have you.”
The U.S. military also has five other C-130 transports from the 86th Airlift Wing, based at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Two HH-60 helicopters involved in the effort were diverted while on their way home to Moody Air Force Base, Ga., after duty in Turkey with Operation Northern Watch. The helicopter crews are from Moody's 41st Rescue Squadron and the 56th Rescue Squadron from Keflavik, Iceland.
There are also four MH-53 helicopters assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Group aiding the effort.
Air Force C-5 and C-17 transports are the workhorses in getting relief supplies to the area. Quigley pointed out 4,600 nautical miles separate Ramstein and Hoedspruit airport.
“In a C-5, that's a 40-hour mission -- 14 hours to get there, 12 hours of crew rest on deck, and 14 hours back," he said. "For a C-130, that's a three-day mission to go that sort of distance to get the materials in. You're talking about very large distances involved here to get the materials in place that are needed in-country.”