U.S. military adds ships, planes, people to relief effort
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. military is adding more ships, planes and people to its relief efforts on behalf of the victims of Sunday’s massive earthquake and resulting tsunamis.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Director of Operations Lt. General James T. Conway briefed reporters from the State Department on Wednesday. He said that six C-130 aircraft will be operating out of the air base at Utapao, Thailand, south of Bangkok.
“We have committed nine P-3 aircraft,” Conway said, “four of which will operate out of Utapao; the other five will operate out of Diego Garcia,” a small island in the Indian Ocean that escaped damage from the ocean surges.
“The [USS Abraham] Lincoln Carrier Strike Group … has been diverted now to the Gulf of Thailand,” Conway said.
“The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group was in Guam. It is forgoing port visits there and in Singapore to move rapidly to the Bay of Bengal. It is estimated to be on station sometime on or before 7 January. It has seven ships associated with the strike group [and] carries 25 helicopters.
“[There are] 2,100 Marines [and] 1,400 sailors embarked aboard the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group and 15th MEU [Marine Expeditionary Unit],” he said.
The U.S. Pacific Command, which is in charge of relief efforts, will send five ships with fresh-water producing capability.
A ship with a field hospital will also be sent, Conway said. Two more ships based at Diego Garcia with a 90,000-gallon fresh water capability will be sent as soon as possible.