WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials are laying out a massive military response to the Haiti earthquake, saying that ships, helicopters, transport planes and a 2,000-member Marine unit are either on the way or likely to begin moving soon.
Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of U.S. Southern Command, said Wednesday that one of the U.S. Navy's large amphibious ships will likely head to Haiti with a Marine expeditionary unit aboard. Fraser said other U.S. military forces are on alert, including a brigade, which includes about 3,500 troops.
Fraser said during a news conference with other U.S. officials that the Pentagon is "seriously looking at" sending thousands of Marines to assist with disaster relief efforts and security in Haiti.
President Barack Obama promised earlier Wednesday to mount an all-out rescue and humanitarian effort to help the people of Haiti overcome a "cruel and incomprehensible" tragedy."
The president said the relief effort is gearing up even as the U.S. government is working to account for Americans who were on the island nation when the disaster struck late Tuesday afternoon.
The initial contingent of 2,000 Marines could be deployed to the quake-ravaged country within the next few days to either help with emergency aid distribution or enforce law in order in conjunction with U.N. peacekeepers already there, Fraser said.
The general said that a U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, is also heading from Norfolk, Va., to the area and should arrive Thursday afternoon.
The dispatched troops would aim to keep the peace in the event of post-disaster unrest as part of a larger international effort overseen by the United Nations, whose peacekeeping operation headquarters was destroyed in the quake. About 100 U.N. personnel are believed to be trapped in the ruins of he building.