U.S. Military May Deploy Troops in Haiti

(AP/Matt Marek/American Red Cross)
Officials are "very seriously looking at" sending U.S. troops into Haiti for security purposes, U.S. Southern Command General Douglas Fraser told reporters Wednesday.

"We have put various forces around the armed forces on alert, so that as we get the assessments in we are postured to move those forces in an expeditious manner," he said. "So we have put a brigade on alert just in the circumstance."

Fraser said the military is considering "sending a large-deck amphibious ship that will have a Marine expeditionary unit embarked on that."

State Department Counselor Cheryl Mills told reporters at the briefing that "just about all" of the 172 personnel at the U.S. embassy in Haiti have been accounted for.

Eight personnel are wounded, and four seriously wounded, she said. Coast Guard helicopters are medevacing out the injured.

The embassy is still intact and has good communication capabilities, officials said. The State Department has ordered that 80 spouses, children, and non-essential personnel at the embassy leave the country, and they are scheduled to do so later today.

Officials say there are approximately 45,000 US citizens in Haiti overall. Mills said the government has "received a number of reports of injured U.S. citizens," though no "major reports" of casualties.

According to Fraser, the country's airport, which has one working runway, is functional – but tower and capability to operate there is limited.

"We're pushing capability there now to be able to operate and secure that airport," he said.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said that in the first 72 hours of the rescue effort, the primary goal is saving lives.

"We will do that by, first, putting in place significant disaster assistance relief teams," he said. "We'll have, by the end of today, 15 members of that team doing surveillance, collecting data, identifying priority sites, and guiding the efforts of the larger search-and-response units that will be following their entry into the country."

According to Fraser, there are Coast Guard and Department of Defense ships now moving toward Haiti, as well as the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson. Both the ships and the carrier will have a compliment of helicopters.

The officials said early reconnaissance indicates that the vast majority of destruction is very focused on Port-au-Prince.

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