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Africa Mission Turns From 'Rescue to Relief'

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2000 – U.S. military operations in response to flooding in southern Africa are changing from "rescue to relief," DoD spokesman Ken Bacon said March 7.

"The waters are receding now, and the real issue is how to help people who have been driven from their homes and have moved into refugee camps or other areas where they need shelter and food," he said in a Pentagon briefing.

February floods caused widespread damage in Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. A 12-person U.S. survey team operating in the area since Feb. 18 was relieved March 7 when Joint Task Force Atlas Response set up headquarters in Maputo, Mozambique.

Bacon said the current U.S. deployment is 247 military personnel led by U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Wehrle, commander of 3rd Air Force, RAF Mildenhall, England. There are six C-130 Hercules aircraft, one MC-130P Combat Shadow, and two HH-60 helicopters in the region.

He said most of the U.S. air operations will be out of Hoedspruit, in eastern South Africa. Hoedspruit was chosen because it is "much less congested than Maputo, which is very busy with helicopters from a number of nations," he added.

"There's going to be a considerable job for (task force members) to do -- rescue work, moving people, relocating people, particularly people who are weak and ill," he said. "I also think they'll be crucial in delivering supplies."

Secretary of Defense William Cohen first offered assistance Feb. 15, and the first shipment of relief supplies arrived March 1, Bacon said.

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Related Sites:
AFPS News Article: DoD Boosts Humanitarian Assistance to African Nations
DoD News Briefing, March 7, 2000

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