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US military readies for Hurricane Irma

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The US military was mobilizing thousands of troops and deploying several large ships Friday to aid with evacuations and humanitarian relief from Hurricane Irma, as the Air Force removed scores of planes from the region.

The governors of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and Florida have together activated nearly 14,000 National Guard personnel to support search-and-rescue missions and evacuations, a Pentagon statement read.

Meanwhile, the USS Kearsarge and the USS Oak Hill — an amphibious assault ship and a dock landing ship — are being sent to aid in relief efforts. The ships will not be in the Irma’s path and were due to start response operations in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Friday.

Hundreds of Marines aboard the ships had initially been deployed late last month to help with relief operations in Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

Additionally, the USS Iwo Jima and USS New York are preparing to provide additional support, while the USS Wasp — an amphibious assault ship bedecked with helicopters — is conducting patient evacuation operations in the US Virgin Islands.

The Wasp is evacuating critical care patients from St Thomas to St Croix and so far has launched six search-and-rescue missions and evacuated more than 20 patients.

As Irma roared towards the mainland United States, the Air Force evacuated dozens of warplanes based in the South, including 50 F-16s from the Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

Northern Command, which is coordinating military efforts, is also “providing urban search-and-rescue capabilities in the Caribbean to assist with life-saving and life-sustaining efforts,” the Pentagon statement read.

And the Defense Logistics Agency is supplying 50,000 gallons of gasoline and 50,000 gallons of diesel to an air base in Georgia.

The US Army Corps of Engineers was preparing to conduct port surveys and dredging missions to reopen ports after the hurricane passes.


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