More Military Support Heading to Haiti After Earthquake, Tropical Storm Leave 1,400 Dead

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U.S. Coast guard assists an injured female in Haiti.
Canadian Medical Assistant Team Cristina Coams alongside with Petty Officer 1st Class Rob Updike and Hero Client Rescue paramedic Nadia Van der Heyden evaluate an injured female in Haiti, Aug. 15, 2021 (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Villa-Rodriguez)

Additional U.S. forces are headed to Haiti to provide humanitarian assistance following a devastating 7.2-magnitude earthquake Saturday and a subsequent tropical storm that has slowed rescue and recovery efforts.

The death toll continues to climb, with more than 1,400 dead and as many as 6,000 injured, according to The Associated Press.

In the aftermath of drenching rains and driving winds from Grace, a tropical depression that skirted the island Monday, the U.S. is bolstering its response to the aid mission. The Navy deployed the amphibious landing platform dock Arlington on Tuesday, with a contingent of Marines aboard. And the U.S. Coast Guard added seven cutters to the two already on scene.

Eight Army and Air Force helicopters from Joint Task Force Bravo, based in Honduras, also are deploying to the region.

The Defense Department on Sunday established Joint Task Force Haiti at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida at the request of the U.S. Agency for International Development's Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance.

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The task force immediately dispatched a 14-member situation assessment team from Special Operations Command South, followed by Coast Guard helicopters to conduct damage assessments and ferry 15 injured Haitians to urgent-care centers.

As of Tuesday, U.S. Coast Guardsmen had rescued 51 people and provided support to a dozen more in 34 sorties. In addition, the service had delivered 5,500 pounds of medical supplies, according to officials.

Two cutters on scene, the Reliance and the Winslow Griesser, have been joined by the Margaret Norvell.

The helicopters from Honduras -- three UH-60 Black Hawks, three CH-47 Chinooks, and two HH-60 Pave Hawks -- are expected to arrive Wednesday to deliver supplies and support relief efforts, according to a Joint Task Force Bravo press release.

U.S. Southern Command said it also plans to use helicopters from the Puerto Rico National Guard for the response; a Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft, currently operating from El Salvador, will provide aerial imagery.

The Arlington will be carrying two MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters, a surgical team and a mechanized landing craft to ferry supplies ashore, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday.

The expeditionary fast transport Burlington also is involved in the response, according to Kirby, as is a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules and HC-144 Ocean Sentry surveillance aircraft.

According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, the quake, aftershocks and related landslides have led to the collapse of at least 700 buildings, including hospitals and schools, and destroyed "several thousand homes."

The infrastructure damage is challenging relief efforts and making it difficult to get information from the damaged area, located along Haiti's southern peninsula.

The earthquake is the second devastating temblor to strike the country in recent decades; in January 2010, much of the capital city of Port au Prince was leveled by a 7.0-magnitude quake, resulting in 250,000 deaths and 300,000 injuries.

An additional 1.5 million people were displaced from their homes.

In 2016, the impoverished nation was hit by Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm that killed more than 540 people and caused $1.9 billion in damage.

The most recent quake comes at a time of political turmoil and subsequent economic strife in the country, following the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moise, on July 7.

"The U.S. military continues to provide unique air, medical, logistical and engineering capabilities in support of USAID and their Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance," Kirby said. "[USAID is] leading this effort. We are supporting them to help save lives and alleviate human suffering in these critical early stages of a disaster relief operation."

In addition to federal forces, 72 members of the Fairfax County, Virginia, Fire Department's urban search-and-rescue crew have deployed to the disaster site.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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