Troops prepare for hurricane Matthew
WASHINGTON — As many as 200 U.S. servicemembers were preparing late Wednesday to deploy to support disaster relief operations in Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which is expected to threaten the East Coast of the United States in the coming days.
Adm. Kurt W. Tidd, the chief of U.S. Southern Command, said a group of 100 soldiers and Marines and nine helicopters were expected to arrive Thursday in Port-au-Prince where they would conduct surveillance flights. A small group of Southern Command personnel arrived Wednesday in the Haitian capital to prepare for operations to support the U.S. Agency for International Development at Haiti’s request.
In the United States, some 1,600 National Guard troops were activated Wednesday and thousands more were on standby as several military bases in Florida and South Carolina ordered evacuations of personnel, aircraft and ships.
The powerful storm was downgraded Wednesday morning after it battered parts of Haiti and Cuba overnight, killing at least 11 people before moving north toward the Bahamas.
Tidd said late Wednesday only Haiti had requested U.S. military assistance, and Southern Command had prepared a task force to respond, which included the heavy- and medium-lift helicopters and several Coast Guard cutters.
“As anticipated, Hurricane Matthew has caused very heavy wind damage and extensive flooding in Haiti’s southern [regions] where strong winds have downed trees and power lines,” he told reporters at the Pentagon. “We think we’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going to be requested, and we think we’ll have the right parts in place to respond.”
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