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WASHINGTON — Commanders overseeing U.S. military relief efforts in Bangladesh said they don’t have a timeline for how long they’ll be in that country, noting the continued need for supplies and medical supplies there.

But Rear Adm. Carol M. Pottenger, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, reiterated in a press conference Friday that the mission is just a short-term emergency response, not a long-term humanitarian effort.

The Nov. 15 cyclone that hit southwest Bangladesh killed more than 3,000 people and displaced tens of thousands more. The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, with Marines and sailors with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, arrived off the coast of Bangladesh on Thanksgiving Day.

Since then, troops have been delivering water and food to villages along the shore, and shuttling other supplies deeper into the affected areas.

In a news conference from the ship, Pottenger said troops have delivered about 12,000 gallons of fresh water and more than 73,000 pounds of other supplies so far.

In addition, medical personnel have seen about 600 patients, mostly locals dealing with water-borne illnesses and minor trauma from the high winds and debris.

Cmdr. Mohammad Fazale Rabbi, a Bangladeshi liaison officer for the aid effort, said this cyclone wasn’t as deadly as previous storms of its size because it hit a less populated rural area.

But because travel and communication has been more difficult in that less developed region, officials didn’t realize the scope of the damage for several days. Once they requested U.S. assistance, he said, troops arrived almost immediately.

He praised the U.S. efforts, noting that U.S. equipment has proven invaluable to getting people and supplies to remote areas.

Col. Douglas Stilwell, commanding officer of the 22nd MEU, said on one recent trip ashore to deliver water that a number of local teens challenged the Marines to a game of soccer. He couldn’t vouch for his troops’ beach soccer skills, but said the locals enjoyed the spectacle.

“It’s indicative of the smiles and gratitude we’re being met with across the board,” he said.


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