MIAMI, USA (Caribbean News Now) – US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) has directed the US Navy amphibious ship USS Wasp to the Leeward Islands, where it will support US State Department assistance to US citizens in Dominica, as well as US foreign disaster assistance requested by Caribbean nations impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria and led by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
The ship’s arrival will expand the mission of Joint Task Force-Leeward Islands (JTF-LI), which deployed to San Juan, Puerto Rico, on September 9 to support US relief operations in St Martin. To date, the task force has purified more than 22,000 gallons and distributed more than 7,000 gallons of water, delivered nine water purification systems, as well as high-capacity forklifts and vehicles to help the Dutch and French governments offload and distribute aid to the island’s residents.
USS Wasp arrived off the coast of Dominica on Thursday with two embarked SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters, bringing the total military helicopters flying missions for the task force to ten.
The task force was scheduled to begin its support to USAID-led assistance to the government of Dominica over the next 24 hours.
The airlift and transport capabilities of amphibious ships make them uniquely suited to support the delivery and distribution of much-needed relief supplies, as well as transport humanitarian assistance personnel in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster.
St Martin and Dominica were both severely impacted by major-category hurricanes, devastating the islands and leaving citizens, as well as visitors, in need of urgent aid.
JTF-LI suspended operations September 18, as Hurricane Maria approached the Leeward Islands, sheltering personnel and aircraft at Muniz Air National Guard Base and US Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen in Puerto Rico.
A small element of the task force remained in St Martin to work with French and Dutch authorities and resume support of relief operations as quickly as conditions allowed.
When requested by USAID, the speed and flexibility of the US military’s logistical capabilities are usually needed most in the critical early stages of a disaster relief operation.