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The Southern Command joined the relief efforts in Haiti, which suffered a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Saturday that so far has left nearly 1,300 dead, with the establishment of the so-called Joint Task Force-Haiti, the institution announced Monday.
The task force, commanded by Navy Rear Admiral Keith Davids, who is commander of Special Operations of the Southern Command, will support the assistance that the United States is providing to the people of Haiti.
As a first step in this mission, a 14-person team arrived Sunday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, to assess the situation in the areas affected by the earthquake.
The delegation will work together with embassy personnel in Haiti and the team of 65 search and rescue experts sent over the weekend by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Southern Command reported that the Navy is using the ScanEagle unmanned aerial system and P-8 Poseidon aircraft to provide aerial imagery of earthquake-devastated areas to determine what capabilities and relief supplies are needed immediately and where.
Additionally, two UH-60 and two CH-47 helicopters from Joint Task Force Bravo are en route to Haiti, where they will provide air support for ongoing relief efforts.
“Historically, U.S. military capabilities are most needed in the critical early stages of a disaster relief operation, when there are fewer resources, capabilities and experts available to assist victims and affected communities,” the Southern Command said.
The institution recalled that it has already helped Haiti when it suffered other disasters, most recently in 2016, when the nation was hit by Hurricane Matthew, in addition to assisting the country with the construction of emergency centers, relief warehouses, fire stations and community centers that function as shelters.
SOUTHCOM has also previously donated search and rescue boats and transport vehicles to Haiti’s civil protection and emergency response agencies.
The earthquake, recorded early Saturday morning, has so far claimed 1,297 lives, in addition to more than 5,700 injuries that have stretched some hospitals in the area to capacity.