U.S. Northern Command continues to focus its relief efforts in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in four primary areas: increasing the medical capabilities, commodity distribution, road and debris clearance on the island, and establishment of forward sustainment capabilities to support FEMA points of distribution.
Currently, there are more than 7,800 active duty service members and 56 active duty helicopters operating in and around Puerto Rico. Each day, the Department of Defense is providing 10 airlift missions to Puerto Rico to continue patient transfers, the delivery of food and water, sustainment brigade elements and medical supplies.
Route clearance operations continue today in order to open roadways to aid in the flow of commodities and response teams into isolated areas in Puerto Rico. Yesterday, Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit began their handover to the 24th MEU, which will take over responsibility for ongoing missions to include search and rescue, medical evacuations, commodity distribution, route assessment and clearance, transport operations near Mayaguez and continue the Villalba water project. To date, Marines from the 26th MEU, along with USS Kearsarge, USS Wasp, and USS Oak Hill, have conducted 68 medical evacuations, 917 flight operations, and delivered over 3.3 million pounds of relief supplies and cargo.
DoD continues to support medical capabilities today in Puerto Rico through ground and sea-based medical support facilities, including the hospital ship USNS Comfort. Elements of an Expeditionary Medical Support System arrived in Puerto Rico yesterday to provide medical support to the island with capabilities that will include over 100 personnel, 25 beds with inpatient, outpatient and surgical capabilities, and can support over 300 patients a day.
USNS Comfort has treated more than 100 patients to date and is currently conducting logistics and medical support operations in the vicinity of Arecibo. The 14th Combat Surgical Hospital is seeing patients and is fully operational in Humacao. The 44-bed facility includes intensive care units and two operating rooms. In addition, the 285th and the 335th Area Medical Support companies are operating acute care clinics in Ceiba, Fajardo, and Aguadilla.
DoD continues to use ground and air assets to send supplies to central regions as additional distribution centers are established across Puerto Rico. To date, more than 9 million meals, more than 9 million liters of water, more than 3 million gallons of potable water and more than 2 million gallons of fuel have been transported to Puerto Rico in support of FEMA to be further distributed to municipalities around the island.
USNORTHCOM's mission is to assist lead federal relief agencies in helping those affected by natural disasters to minimize suffering while continuing its mission of defending the Homeland.