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USS Mesa Verde returning to Norfolk after providing aid to Haiti

USS Mesa Verde returning to Norfolk after providing aid to Haiti
By Brock Vergakis
The Virginian-Pilot


The USS Mesa Verde is returning to Norfolk after spending the past several days providing disaster relief in Haiti, where more than 1.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance after Hurricane Matthew.

The amphibious transport dock was relieved by the much larger amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima on Friday.

Hundreds of Marines and several helicopters that were aboard the Mesa Verde transferred to the Iwo Jima, where they will continue delivering aid to hard-hit regions in southwest Haiti via helicopter.

The Mesa Verde arrived in Haiti on Sunday.

The powerful Category 4 storm killed 473 people and destroyed homes, knocked down trees and washed out roads that made many parts of the poor Caribbean nation only accessible by air, according to the United Nations.

With the arrival of the Mayport, Fla.-based Iwo Jima, there are now 20 helicopters making deliveries. The military had delivered 426,000 pounds of food, medical supplies and other aid by Friday, according to U.S. Southern Command. The military is providing relief at the request of the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is coordinating with Haiti’s government and spending more than $13 million to support those efforts.
The Defense Department has authorized spending $11 million to provide transportation support in the Caribbean, conduct airfield and port assessments, and provide airfield operations support, according to USAID.

The Navy had prepared the Norfolk-based aircraft carrier USS George Washington and hospital ship USNS Comfort to also provide aid to Haiti, but the call for help never came.

The George Washington transferred its aircraft to the Iwo Jima earlier this week and stayed in the Atlantic Ocean to conduct training.

The Comfort was scheduled to arrive back in Norfolk on Friday.

It’s unclear how long the Iwo Jima will remain in Haiti, but Navy officials have said it will likely be several weeks.

The Mesa Verde should be back in Norfolk in about five days.

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