The federal government’s priority is continuing to provide lifesaving and life-sustaining resources to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of recent hurricanes in the Caribbean Sea, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning told reporters today.
“The [Federal Emergency Management Agency] and its federal partners are in the lead and the Department of Defense is in support,” Manning said, noting that about 2,600 DoD personnel are in the Caribbean.
“We continue to conduct 24-hour operations, aggressively conducting search and rescue operations, bringing additional essential commodities to the islands and restoring power at critical facilities with generators and the fuel needed to power them,” he said.
Amphibious Ready Group
Among DoD efforts is the USS Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, which has conducted eight medical evacuations and 123 airlifts and delivered 22,200 pounds of relief supplies and cargo to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the spokesman said.
“Yesterday, they inserted Marine Corps and Navy teams in to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, to conduct route reconnaissance, clearance of main roads and clearance of the airfield and associated taxiways,” he added.
The ships also have deployed a disaster response team to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands to clean streets and distribute commodities, Manning said.
The USS Kearsarge Ambhibious Ready Group has inserted the Army’s 602nd Area Support Medical Company and a Civil Authority Information Support Element to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, he noted, in addition to transporting supplies between St. Croix and St. Thomas.
“The U.S. Navy worked with the U.S. Coast Guard to reopen the port of San Juan, and [it] is open to support daylight operations,” the colonel said.
U.S. Transportation Command is moving additional personnel and equipment, including eight UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to the San Juan International Airport in Puerto Rico to increase distribution capacity, he said.
DoD has also re-established the mobile communications tower to enhance air traffic control capability at St. Thomas International Airport, Manning said, and DoD’s strategic airlift has delivered three FEMA urban search and rescue teams to Puerto Rico and meals and water to St. Croix, he added.
Additional urban search and rescue teams and key Department of Health and Human Services medical capabilities are scheduled to be delivered by DoD assets today, the colonel said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has conducted a preliminary inspection of the Guajataca Dam and is working closely with the Puerto Rico emergency managers as they continue to monitor and assess the dam, Manning said. Meanwhile, he noted, the National Guard continues route clearance, evacuation, improving communication and airlift support.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)