Haiti earthquake: US aid by numbers

US aid efforts for the Haiti earthquake appear to be speeding up. By midweek, a total of 5,000 US military personnel will be in the country, with about 5,000 more on ships offshore.

Mary Knox Merrill / The Christian Science Monitor
Soldiers from Fort Bragg, North Carolina load suitcases and other supplies into a helicopter at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday.
Mary Knox Merrill / The Christian Science Monitor
Life gets back to normal at a bustling outdoor market in the Petion-ville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Sunday, five days after a 7.0 earthquake.

The security situation in the devastated Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince remains stable, according to US officials.

There are reports of isolated instances of looting, and cases in which desperate refugees have rushed aid locations to try and make sure they receive help, said US Navy Rear Adm. Michael Rogers, the Joint Chiefs of Staff director for Intelligence, in a conference call with reporters on Jan. 18.

But none of these events have interfered with international rescue and food and water distribution efforts, Rogers said.

“There is no sense of widespread panic,” he said.

As of Monday afternoon, 71 people had been pulled alive from collapsed buildings by international rescue personnel. Of these, 39 were rescued by US search-and-rescue teams, said Tim Callahan, a senior regional adviser for US Agency for International Development (USAID).

On Monday the approximately 1,700 international rescue personnel in Haiti were continuing to search for people who may still be alive, but trapped amidst crushed concrete and other debris.

That work will probably continue into Tuesday, but the time is approaching when the chance of finding living victims will be so slim as to change the way the teams approach their work.

“Obviously, we are getting close to when you would go from rescue to recovery mode,” said Mr. Callahan.

USNS hospital ship on its way

Two large US government aircraft full of medical supplies and personnel landed yesterday at the Port-au-Prince airport. Two more are expected Monday evening.

In addition, the US Navy’s East Coast hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, steamed away from its home port of Baltimore on Sunday. The giant ship, with 12 operating rooms and 1,000 treatment and recovery beds, should reach Haiti by Wednesday.

Some international aid organizations have criticized the US for the fact that it has not yet established a full field hospital in Haiti, as Israel has done.

“We are bringing additional hospital assets,” said Admiral Rogers, pointing to the impending arrival of the USNS Comfort.

The ship was at “cold iron” prior to the earthquake, he noted, meaning its power plant was shut down and it was staffed by only a minimal crew.

“It usually takes five days [to ready the ship for sailing]. We accelerated that to three and a half days,” said Rogers.

10,000 US troops to Haiti

As to US military personnel, right now there are about 1,700 US troops on the ground in Haiti. Most are Army troops from the 2nd brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division.

About 2,200 Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are expected to arrive as soon as Tuesday, said Adm. Rogers. All told by midweek there will be some 5,000 uniformed US military personnel in the country, with about 5,000 more on ships just offshore.

The troops are not there to take over Haitian security, said Rogers.

"Our mission is very clear: it is to provide humanitarian assistance in support of the UN mission,” he said.


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