Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Haiti Relief Continues

Caption: GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (Feb. 2, 2010) The amphibious dock-landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) takes on humanitarian supplies at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo Bay is a logistical hub providing support for Operation Unified Response, a humanitarian assistance mission following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist John K. Hamilton/Released)

Image credit: U.S. Navy

An old friend e-mailed me yesterday. Among other things, she said her daughter's ship, the U.S.S. Ashland, is about to deploy to Haiti to continue with relief efforts. It's been a month since the quake hit, but the relief efforts are continuing. Ashland's sister ship, the U.S.S. Gunston Hall, left the area last week:

The Whidbey Island-class dock-landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) departed the waters near Carrefour, Haiti, Feb. 12 after providing humanitarian assistance to the Haitian people as part of Operation Unified Response, following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the Caribbean island Jan. 12.

Gunston Hall arrived off of the Killick Haitian Coast Guard Base Jan. 18. The crew, particularly the ship's hospital corpsmen, along with the embarked international Africa Partnership Station (APS) West staff, linked up with U.S. Coast Guard units and other U.S. Navy units already in the area and assisted with stabilizing conditions at the base and providing medical assistance to those in need. They were eventually joined by members of Joint Task Force (JTF) Bravo's medical element, deployed from Honduras, and members of the navies of Mexico and Colombia.

Gunston Hall Completes Mission in Haiti

Both ships are dock landing ships, which carry both helicopters and amphibious craft. Ashland is part of the Nassau Amphibious Ready Group (NAS ARG), which is carrying the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24 MEU). In a country with as little infrastructure as Haiti has, these are valuable assets, because they can deliver large amounts of relief supplies quickly. They also have large hospitals for dealing with battlefield casualties, so they can provide medical services:

An amphibious ready group traditionally deploys with robust medical capabilities, and the NAS ARG/24 MEU is no exception. The medical personnel and facilities aboard the three ARG ships will join the medical efforts already in place in the region to provide vital medical treatment to those in need in Haiti.

Nassau Amphibious Ready Group, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Bound for Haiti (PDF)

Altogether, these units include more than 4,000 sailors and marines. They are part of an even larger fleet that is currently supporting Haitian relief efforts.

They, and many other military and civilian organizations from around the world are continuing the work of providing shelter and helping to rebuild Haiti's infrastructure. The latter effort will take many months, and could prove the costliest natural disaster on record, as Reuters reports today:

The cost of rebuilding impoverished Haiti after last month's catastrophic earthquake could reach nearly $14 billion, making it proportionately the most destructive natural disaster in modern times, economists at the Inter-American Development Bank said on Tuesday.

Their study, which takes into account the magnitude of the January 12 disaster, the number of fatalities and Haiti's population and per capita GDP, raises previous damage estimates from the quake to between $8 billion and $14 billion.
The IADB study said the Haitian government had reported 230,000 dead as of February 10.

"While the results are subject to many caveats, the study confirms that the Haitian earthquake is likely to be the most destructive natural disaster in modern times, when viewed in relation to the size of the Haiti's population and its economy," the IADB economists said.

Haiti reconstruction cost may near $14 billion: IADB

Just to put that 230,000 in perspective, the city I live in has a population of 85,000. That's almost three full Federal Ways, or more people than live in Tacoma.

If you want to help, there are still Haitian relief fund at The Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders (link to their donations page) is still working there, as this report from their site mentions:

Dr. Marie-Pierre Allié, president of Médecins Sans Frontières-France, who recently returned from a field visit to Haiti, analyses the situation there one month after the disaster. At present, areas of concern include the vacuum caused by the withdrawal of some of the international medical teams who rushed to scene after the earthquake, the ongoing lack of shelter, and the slow pace of aid distribution.

One month after the earthquake, what is the situation in Haiti?

The extent of the destruction that I observed in the field is very unusual. This disaster leaves a profound impression even on those with prior experience in natural disasters, even after seeing the images over and over. In some places, families are living in the rubble of neighborhoods that have been completely destroyed. In other areas, the buildings still standing seem to be very unstable and dangerous. According to the United Nations, approximately 500,000 displaced persons have moved to more than 300 resettlement sites in the capital, but this is just part of the problem. We are talking about a capital city of 2.5 million people where almost no one is sleeping under a roof at this point.

Haiti: "We are not out of the emergency phase yet"

[Italics from original]

With much of Haiti's principal city in ruins, and millions homeless, it's clear that this work is going to continue for a long time.


Unknown said...

I'm not surprised that "Gator Navy" is getting the call in Haiti. The cargo carrying capacity of The LSD are nothing to sneeze at. Plus by being shallow-draft ships they can go places that other ships dare not tread.

The Nassau ARG (Amphibious Ready Group) lead ship is also fairly impressive as it as big as a WWII "Jeep" Carrier. It has huge interior dock that can carry all sorts of odd things plus it has compliment of helicopters that are rather useful for rescue missions, emergency resupply, etc. The medical capabilities of the LHA cause some to call this ship the "Largest Hospital Afloat." Only the two purpose-built Hospital ships are better outfitted.

While the MEU's are also a boon to Haiti, the heavy Naval lifting is probably being done by the Sea Bees and the Force Service Support Groups (FSSG)onshore. It also make sense that with the Haitian capitol in rubble that the military is running the operation out of Gitmo. It is a good geographical rally point before hitting the beach at Hispaniola.

Still I worry because the rains are coming and the International community is behind the eight ball as far as shelter goes. The Guardian UK is reporting up to a million being homeless. That means far too many exposed to the elements next month when the rains begin in earnest. I specifically worry about waterborne diseased ripping through an already battered populace.

Cujo359 said...

Our LHAs would probably qualify as full carriers in most navies today. Their air complements are similar.

Yes, the longer there are so many people homeless, the worse the situation will get. Hurricane season is only about four months away now. With so many people living in tents or temporary shelters, that can't be good.