Haiti is reeling from a massive earthquake, and U.S. and international agencies are scrambling to respond.
In a statement, Randy Martin, director of global emergency operations for the relief group Mercy Corps said, “Initial reports indicate that the quake has caused extensive damage, and we fear that casualties could be widespread.”
A few hours ago, I received this tweet from my friends Kira Kay and Jason Maloney of the Bureau for International Reporting, currently in Haiti to shoot a documentary. “Planning to head out at first light to Port au Prince,” they write. “Don’t know if we will have communications. Will post when we can #fb.” I’ll be following their tweets and Facebook posts all day.
The Coast Guard has mobilized cutters and aircraft: The service deployed the crews of a C-130 Hercules cargo plane; the Valiant, a Reliance-class cutter; and the medium-endurance cutters Forward, Tahoma and Mohawk. According to a Coast Guard statement, additional Coast Guard assets in the region are also standing by to render assistance if needed.
The U.S. military has a long history of involvement in Haiti, including major interventions like Operation Uphold Democracy in 1994 and 1995. More recently, Haiti has been a destination for military-led humanitarian assistance missions like Continuing Promise 2009, pictured here. The Associated Press, quoting White House sources, says that less than 20 U.S. military personnel are currently in the country, and they are prepared to take part in humanitarian operations.
Update: U.S. Southern Command announced that elements of the Air Force’s 1st Special Operations Wing are deploying to Port au Prince to help provide emergency air traffic control capability. Earlier this morning, a Navy P-3 Orion aircraft based at a forward operating location in El Salvador flew to conduct a reconnaissance of the area hit by the quake. And the Navy carrier USS Carl Vinson is now underway; the ship is expected to arrive off the coast of Haiti tomorrow.