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USNS Comfort Begins Race to Haiti

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD THE USNS COMFORT, Jan. 16, 2010 – The USNS Comfort cast off lines this morning in Baltimore to begin the race to aid the people of Haiti.


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Tugs push the USNS Comfort from its pier in Baltimore harbor as the U.S. Navy hospital ship heads to Haiti. Dod photo by Jim Garamone

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The hospital ship is loaded with medical expertise and supplies. Sailors from medical facilities all over the United States have arrived and are planning how to best deliver medical care.

“At this juncture the leadership of USNS Comfort is making every effort to expedite our arrival in Haiti, said Navy Lt. Bashon Mann, the ship’s public affairs officer. “The expected arrival date is Thursday (Jan. 21,) but we are moving as fast as we safely can to hasten the arrival in Haiti to begin delivering patient care.”

The Comfort is a large white ship with red crosses painted on it. Haiti was a stop on its last deployment in 2009 and that is helping the medical professionals now as they head to the nation.

“We have people in contact with people in Haiti planning on how we will be able to help when we arrive,” Mann said.

Medical planners are using the transit time to flesh out plans. The medical staff and crew are working to be able to immediately start delivering care once the ship arrives in Haitian waters. Two helicopters will fly aboard the ship later this afternoon. The choppers will join a growing fleet of aircraft operating to aid Haiti.

Red Cross officials fear that the magnitude 7 earthquake that struck Jan. 12 killed between 40,000 and 50,000 people. Many thousands have been injured and most hospitals in Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital and epicenter of the quake, have been destroyed.

The comfort brings 19 operating rooms, and intensive-care facility, and hundreds of beds to the humanitarian mission.

Getting the Comfort ready was a rush job, to say the least. The Navy notified most of the personnel that they would deploy on Jan. 13. Buses brought the medical staff to the ship yesterday, and sailors searched for their berths, muster stations and workspaces until late in the night.

Cranes lifted medical supplies, equipment and foodstuffs onto the helipad, and sailors lifted and heaved to store the supplies even as the ship began moving.

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Click photo for screen-resolution image Passengers aboard the USNS Comfort take photos as the hospital ship passes under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge near Annapolis, Md., on its way to provide humanitarian care in Haiti. DoD photo by Jim Garamone  
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