USNS Comfort hospital ship ferries 19 people to Haiti, derailing US Navy aid mission

After a month-long stay in New York City, the US Navy
The US Naval Hospital Ship Comfort (USNS Comfort) is seen on the Hudson River on its way to New York Harbor as seen from Exchange Place in Jersey City, New Jersey in this April 2020 file photo.

Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty

Jeremy, Haiti A US Navy hospital ship docked in southwest Haiti temporarily suspended medical services after 19 people with the mission were swept away by massive flooding in the Caribbean, officials said Tuesday. US Navy spokesman Lewis Preddy said it happened Monday night and involved 12 military personnel and seven civilians aboard the USNS Comfort, which was returning to the ship after caring for patients on land.

All 19 were pulled back onto the small boat, which was then lifted onto the ship by a crane. He said the normal procedure is for personnel to use a water taxi and climb a ladder to board the ship, but the heavy surf made this impossible.

He said two people were injured but they are expected to recover.

Predi said the authorities are considering how to continue the mission while ensuring the safety of the people. Heavy swells were expected to last at least through the weekend, according to meteorologists.

Rear Admiral James Aiken, commander of US Naval Forces Southern Command-US 4th Fleet, told The Associated Press that officials were working hard to bring the mission in Haiti back online after it begins on Monday.

“The need is huge, and we are very excited to be able to provide some care,” he said in a phone interview.

Officials said they did not immediately have the number of patients who have been treated so far.

Haiti US Naval Medical Ship
Police officers stop people protesting the arrival of the US Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort on December 13, 2022 in Jérémy, Haiti.

Odeline Joseph / AP

On Tuesday, several hundred Haitians protested the ship’s presence in the coastal town of Jérémy, shouting, “Down with the American people! We don’t want them here!”

Some demanded that instead the US government visit certain areas in the capital of Port-au-Prince to clear neighborhoods control over powerful gangs,

In early October, Haiti’s government requested the deployment of foreign troops to help fight gangs and end a fuel blockade that has since been stopped by one of the country’s most powerful gangs from allowing trucks to reach fuel terminals. Removed after giving permission. No international troops have been deployed, but the US and Canada have imposed a flurry of sanctions.

Control of heavily armed gangs increased in Haiti


Aiken dismissed the small protest Tuesday at Jeremy’s, saying he’s focused on the positive.

“There are hundreds, if not millions, of people who want us there,” he said.

The USNS Comfort has visited Haiti several times over the past decade as the country grapples with severe power outages and a health system strained by fuel shortages. The floating hospital has turned to people with ailments ranging from diabetes to cholera, which has killed more than 280 people and infected more than 14,100.

On Monday, Haiti received more than 1.17 million oral cholera vaccines with the help of the Pan American Health Organization.

The 1,000-bed Comfort was also called into action to help US residents during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Docking in New York for about a month To help the city’s overburdened hospitals.

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