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Defense Department Authorizes Up to $20M in Haiti Relief

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2010 – The Defense Department has authorized up to $20 million in immediate aid to Haiti as part of an international push to bring relief to the country in the wake of the 7-magnitude earthquake that struck Jan. 12.

The department’s Haiti disaster relief execution order will provide funding for humanitarian disaster relief and civic aid that includes up 600,000 humanitarian daily rations, food packages of about 2,300 calories designed to maintain a person’s basic nutrition needs, according to officials.

The assistance is part of a substantial relief effort by the Defense Department that, as of last night, included 4,200 U.S. military personnel supporting task force operations within Haiti in addition to Navy and Coast Guard vessels offshore.

An additional 6,300 military personnel are scheduled to arrive through the weekend and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, yesterday estimated that up to 10,000 U.S. troops would be in Haiti by Monday.

“As you hear the numbers increase to some 9,000 to 10,000 by Monday, many of them will be offshore in the ships certainly providing this critical support as well and very focused on the medical needs, the food needs the water needs,” he told Pentagon reporters yesterday, adding that the number of U.S. personnel in Haiti could increase over time.

White House officials today said 26 urban search and rescue teams from the U.S. continue operating in Haiti after rescuing 15 people, with Haitians and Americans among those rescued. An official noted that the prospect of finding additional survivors in operations lasting at least through tomorrow is still possible.

An official said 180 tons of food had been delivered as of yesterday, and that five emergency health centers are currently in operation. Other aid workers are engaged in distributing food, purifying water and providing sanitation.

The Red Cross estimates between 40,000 and 50,000 people were killed in what one official has called one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas.

Military efforts, which are in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development that is orchestrating U.S. government contributions to the relief mission, are focused on working with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, international relief organizations and local responders to provide search and rescue, distribute aid and assess damage to key infrastructure, officials said.

With approval from the Haitian government, U.S. Air Force air traffic control and airfield management personnel are managing air operations into the international airport at the national capital of Port-au-Prince. The airfield is open for 24-hour operations and has a 90-aircraft-per-day capability.

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Higgins are operating off the Haitian coast in support of the task force. USS Carl Vinson has 19 embarked helicopters flying airlift missions in support of relief efforts. The carrier also is delivering more than 30 pallets of relief supplies for distribution to affected areas.

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