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DoD Continues Support in Hurricane-Ravaged Areas

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2017 — The Defense Department is continuing relief operations in areas of the Caribbean Sea stricken by hurricanes in recent weeks.

A Marine and resident work together to clear the main road.
A Marine and a resident clear a tree from the main road as part of Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Sept. 27, 2017. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis C. Schneider
A Marine and resident work together to clear the main road. Working With Residents
A Marine and a resident clear a tree from the main road as part of Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, Sept. 27, 2017. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis C. Schneider

In Puerto Rico, DoD continues ongoing relief operations and deployment of additional response capacity, expanding airfield and seaport throughput and supporting Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements, Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement this morning.

Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, DoD's liaison to the FEMA-led effort, and his deputy, Army Brig. Gen. Rich Kim, are in Puerto Rico and are coordinating with FEMA, the Puerto Rico National Guard, commonwealth leaders and other key response stakeholders, Davis said. The multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Wasp is returning to support response operations in and around Puerto Rico, he added.

U.S. Northern Command will pair Wasp MH-60 helicopters with additional helicopters to bring the total of tilt- and rotary-wing aircraft supporting the response to 52 aircraft, he said.

Hospital Assessments Continue

FEMA reports that assessments are complete at 62 of Puerto Rico's 69 hospitals, Davis said -- one is fully operational, 55 are partially operational, five are closed, and the status of eight is as yet unknown.

An assessment of the Schneider Regional Hospital on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands will be completed today to determine when patient services may resume, Davis said. Meanwhile, he added DoD is working to fulfill a FEMA request to establish a mobile medical facility on St. Croix.

The hospital ship USNS Comfort will depart its home port of Norfolk, Virginia, today, bound for Puerto Rico, and Northcom is sourcing a Role 3 medical capability and additional medical support, Davis said. The capability includes a self-sufficient deployable medical/surgical treatment facility, including inpatient care with 50 inpatient beds for up to 10 days, he explained.

The Army Corps of Engineers has completed a damage assessment at Puerto Rico's Guajataca Dam, Davis said, and are consulting on repairs. A flash flood watch is posted there, with 1 to 3 inches of rain expected over the weekend, he added.

Ten of 12 regional staging areas, including 12 Puerto Rico National Guard armories, are open, he said, supporting more than 100 distribution points for meals, water and other commodities.

Eight airports are open in Puerto Rico and one remains closed, he said. Five of six FEMA-priority sea ports are open or open with restrictions, he added, and surveys of Ponce and Roosevelt Roads are ongoing. U.S. Transportation Command lifted a replacement generator for San Juan Combined Center/Radar Approach. When installed, the generator will enhance air traffic control capability and increase air traffic capacity.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean region, U.S. Southern Command's Joint Task Force Leeward Islands continues evacuations on Dominica, Davis said, noting that Southcom assets rescued one British and one French national whose civilian aircraft crashed outside Guadeloupe.
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