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U.S. Southern Command Speeds to Aid Haitians

Aug. 17, 2021 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

A U.S. Southern Command joint task force has already begun working to aid the people of Haiti, which was recently hit by a devastating earthquake and is now being flooded by a tropical storm.

Joint Task Force–Haiti is moving to the island nation in support of the mission, which is being led by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

People stand around doctors attending a man lying on a mat.
Earthquake Response
A Coast Guardsman, right, helps paramedics stabilize a patient for travel in Haiti, Aug. 15, 2021. The Coast Guard is conducting humanitarian response in Haiti after a powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the region.
Photo By: Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Villa Rodriguez
VIRIN: 210815-G-YF993-1011

The southwest part of the island was struck by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake on Saturday. The damage was extensive, and reports out of the area say at least 1,400 people were killed.

On top of that, Tropical Storm Grace hit the affected area making rescue and recovery efforts more difficult.

U.S. Southern Command is working with USAID to get help to the Haitian people quickly. "U.S. Southern Command is working to assess damage, develop common operational pictures, and provide lifesaving support for the people of Haiti," Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said during a news conference. 

The command is moving the task force to Haiti today. Kirby said DOD is also flying eight helicopters to Haiti later today.

Five people loaded with gear climb into a helicopter.
Rescue Ready
U.S. Coast Guard helicopters and aircrews transport medical personnel and urban search and rescue crews to Haiti from Fairfax, Va., Aug. 16, 2021.
Photo By: U.S. Coast Guard Photo
VIRIN: 210816-G-G0107-1001M

The USS Arlington, a Navy amphibious ship, — is also sailing to Haiti. The ship, which has an onboard surgical team, carries MH-60 helicopters and landing craft to move supplies to shore. The USNS Burlington will support the relief effort, as will P-8 Poseidon aircraft that will provide aerial coverage to get a clear picture of what the situation looks like on the ground. 

The 14-person assessment team is on the ground in the affected area and will report back to SOUTHCOM. The DOD will work closely with personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard, which has two cutters in the adjacent waters. The Coast Guard has sent seven other cutters to the region and is providing aerial support, Kirby said.