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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 566-98
November 04, 1998

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT PROVIDES CENTRAL AMERICAN HURRICANE RELIEF

The Department of Defense announced today that to date it has provided approximately 500 personnel, 20 rotary-wing and four fixed-wing aircraft, and ten Zodiac inflatable boats to support disaster relief efforts in Central America in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch.

U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), based in Miami, Fla., is coordinating all U.S. military assistance with the U.S. State Department's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Honduran disaster relief agency (COPECO), and the Honduran military.

USSOUTHCOM's Joint Task Force Bravo, a forward deployed standing task force based at Soto Cano, Honduras, is the principal command and control element for Task Force Hope, the provisional military organization set up to provide disaster support.

An intermediate staging base has been established at Soto Cano to receive bulk supplies and prepare them for shipment to forward operating bases at San Pedro Sula, Honduras; La Ceiba, Honduras; and Managua, Nicaragua.

So far more than 22,000 pounds of relief supplies have arrived at Soto Cano, including food, medical supplies, water bladders, plastic sheeting, and bottled water. Though extremely adverse weather conditions initially impeded relief efforts, supplies arriving at the intermediate staging base established at Soto Cano, Honduras, are being transported by UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters as conditions permit. Since conditions improved, UH-60 and CH-47 aircraft have transported medical personnel, generators, vehicles, and 4,000 pounds of supplies to outlying areas.

U.S. special operations personnel from Special Operations Command-South (SOCSOUTH), based in Panama, rescued more than 500 people using Zodiac boats to reach flooded areas not accessible by vehicle. The flood victims were transported to safety by UH-60 helicopters.

In addition, on Oct. 31, two UH-60 helicopters assisted Honduran President Carlos Flores-Facusse by flying him back to the capital of Tegucigalpa after he had become stranded at the Honduran town of Siguatepuegque while he was inspecting the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch.