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US sending 4,000 more troops to Haiti

AFP
Via Raw Story

Published: Wednesday January 20, 2010

The United States is sending more than 4,000 additional troops to quake-devastated Haiti, diverting them from scheduled deployments to Europe and the Middle East, officials said Wednesday.

Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the decision to divert the troops “based on continuing urgent needs in the Haiti relief effort,” a statement from the US Second Fleet said. They received the orders on Tuesday.

The move to redeploy thousands of troops from the Nassau Amphibious Ready Group and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit came as Haitians scrambled for food, water and medical care eight days after a devastating earthquake.

The amphibious group left Norfolk, Virginia on Monday for its original deployment but was ordered to proceed to Haiti after taking on more marines in North Carolina.

“The marines are in the final stages of embarking onboard the ships. They are expected to leave this evening or early tomorrow morning,” Second Marine Expeditionary Force spokesman Master Sergeant Keith Milks told AFP.

If the ships go full speed, they would reach Haiti within 36 to 48 hours, although they will adopt the “most prudent” pace possible depending on weather and mechanical conditions, he added.

The move takes the total number of US troops due to be helping out in Haiti in coming days above 15,000.

“The ARG/MEU will provide an array of helicopter and amphibious landing craft assets, significantly increasing the ability to quickly provide relief supplies where they are most needed,” the Second Fleet said.

“In addition, the marines assigned to 24 MEU will be able to provide an additional force capable of providing a secure environment for the ongoing relief efforts ashore in Haiti.”

Violence is threatening to boil over in the capital Port-au-Prince as hundreds of thousands of survivors grow increasingly desperate for aid.

The 7.0-magnitude quake, which struck on January 12, leveled the capital Port-au-Prince and surrounding towns and villages in western Haiti, killing at least 75,000 people and perhaps as many as 200,000.

Three amphibious ships — the USS Nassau, the USS Mesa Verde and the USS Ashland — will support the latest deployment, along with a helicopter squadron, a tiltrotor squadron and medical personnel and facilities.

They will bring the total number of US Navy and Military Sealift Command vessels participating in the relief effort to 20.

The Nassau has one of the largest ship-borne hospitals after the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort hospital ships.

Eight days after the quake, US military officials leading the relief effort say they are shifting the focus from tracking down survivors buried in the rubble towards recovering bodies and starting to rebuild the devastated nation.

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