Thursday, September 01, 2005
Three amphibious ships and a rescue and salvage vessel began leaving port today in a race to the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina, bringing everything from baby formula to bulldozers to desperate Americans. "We told the crews we’ve got a disaster of proportions that we’ve never seen before," Capt. Sinclair M. Harris, commodore of Amphibious Squadron Four, said in the pre-dawn darkness as his ships loaded relief supplies. "We’ve got American citizens who have been harmed, and we just need to get there."
USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7)The amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), USS Tortuga (LSD 46)the dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) , USS Shreveport (LPD 12)the amphibious transport dock USS Shreveport (LPD 12) USS Grapple (ARS 53)and the rescue and salvage ship USS Grapple (ARS 53) USS Bataan (LHD 5)will join the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) , which was already in the Gulf of Mexico for a weeks-long training exercise, Navy officials said. The ships will be supported by six disaster relief teams as well as elements from a mobile diving salvage unit, an assault craft unit and a beach unit. Disaster relief teams include amphibious construction equipment, medical personnel and supplies. Pallets of bottled water, food, medical supplies, tents and water purifiers were being loaded throughout the night aboard the Navy ships. It will take up to four days for them to reach the areas off Louisiana and Mississippi where the need is greatest, Harris said. The amphibious ships are bringing a variety of landing craft and amphibious vehicles to reach shore. They also are prepared to treat injured aboard ship, or inland where tents will be set up for medical personnel. "We will do search and rescue, I am sure, and provide water, whatever we can," Harris said. How close the ships will be able to get to the shore depends on whether they are blocked by debris form oil rigs, sunken boats or floating structures. "With all the oil rigs broken lose and debris right now, we don’t run the ship aground. But we will get there as fast as we can." The Iwo Jima, the Shreveport and the Bataan are based at Norfolk Naval Station. The Tortuga and the Grapple are based at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Virginia Beach. Coast Guard teams based in Portsmouth and Elizabeth City, as well as local firefighters and utility workers, are also traveling to the Gulf Coast to help