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article imageNavy hospital ship with 1,000 beds readies for Haiti quake relief

By Steven Z.K. Nickels     Jan 14, 2010 in World
The 1,000-bed U.S. Navy hospital ship, USNS Comfort, is being activated and readied for service in earthquake devastated Haiti. The 894 feet-long ship includes more than 1,000 medical and support personnel.
The U.S. Navy has activated its massive 1,000-bed hospital ship, USNS Comfort, and is readying it for service in earthquake ravaged Haiti, the U.S. defense department said. The ship is normally maintained in a partially inactive status at its home-port in Baltimore, Maryland. It takes at least five days to be ready to get under way but should head to Haiti by Monday at the latest.
The ship is essentially a floating hospital and includes the medical services of a modern well-equipped medical facility. In addition to 1,000 beds for varies types of casualties, it includes 12 operating rooms. The Comfort is staffed by over 1,000 doctors, nurses, medical technicians and ship support personnel.
In addition, the Comfort also has four distilling plants on board, with the capacity to create 300,000 gallons per day of clean, drinkable water. Safe water will be one of the most essential short-term needs for the survivors of the devastating 7.0 Haiti earthquake that happened on Tuesday afternoon.
The 894 feet-long Comfort has been in U.S. Navy service since December 1, 1987. It was originally built and commissioned as the SS Rose City, an oil tanker. It is now one of two hospital ships that the U.S. Navy maintains, with the other being the USNS Mercy.
The ship has been activated several times since coming to service in 1987. It was activated and stationed off the coast of Saudi Arabia and close to Kuwait during the first Gulf war, Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1991. It was also sent to the Gulf region at the beginning of the present war with Iraq. It served off America's shores both following the September 11, 2001 attacks, when it was sent to the waters around New York City, and during the Hurricane Katrina recovery in New Orleans.
The Comfort is one among many assets the U.S. military has announced will be sent to Haiti. The USS Bataan, an amphibious ship with U.S. Marine Corps troops is also on the way. The aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson and its complement of supporting ships are also heading to the area. Additionally, several U.S. Coast Guard vessels and helicopters have been detached.
A 2,000-member Marine Amphibious Unit and soldiers from the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne division will likely be dispatched to the area to assist. Those troops are trained in a wide variety of missions including security and riot-control in addition to humanitarian tasks.
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