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American Forces Press Service

U.S. Military Airlifts Relief Supplies to Flood Victims in Bolivia

By Petty Officer 1st Class Michael D. Wimbish, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service

MIAMI, March 5, 2007 – U.S. Southern Command here has partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Navy’s Project Handclasp to airlift more than $30,000 of emergency relief supplies to victims of recent devastating flooding in eastern Bolivia.

The supplies include 4,800 water containers, 2,300 hygiene kits, 20 rolls of plastic sheeting, and four water pumps, each capable of draining 25,000 gallons per hour.

A C-130 Hercules loaded with the relief supplies took off from Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., yesterday en route to Trinidad, Bolivia. SOUTHCOM officials said U.S. representatives will turn over the supplies to relief organizers on the ground today.

"We´re very thankful that the military is flying this aircraft in today with these relief supplies, which will go a long way to help the many families who have been impacted by these floods,” said Tim Callahan, of USAID’s Office Of Foreign Assistance.

Lt. Col. Patricia Stolz, of SOUTHCOM’s Logistics Directorate, said that “the supplies are going to be broken down and trans-shipped via helicopter to the affected people.”

SOUTHCOM’s commander, Navy Adm. James Stavridis, praised the interagency collaboration. “We welcome this partnership opportunity with USAID and Project Handclasp to help a friendly nation mitigate the devastating effects of this major disaster,” he said.

SOUTHCOM’s Military Group at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia, has been working with the Bolivian Ministry of Defense to deliver relief supplies following a declaration of a national emergency by the government of Bolivia.

“We have been working with our counterparts in Bolivia since January, particularly with defense officials, to help deliver emergency supplies,” said Jose Ruiz, a SOUTHCOM spokesman.

The C-130 Hercules aircraft is part of the 156th Airlift Wing in Puerto Rico. Members of the 70th Aerial Port Squadron, based at Homestead Air Reserve Base, helped load the relief supplies onto the plane.

The SOUTHCOM-coordinated relief effort is just one of many similar efforts that have been carried out by the U.S. government. To date, the U.S. government has provided nearly $1 million in relief aid and has assisted Bolivian officials with helicopter and truck support to assess affected areas and deliver supplies to communities in need

The flooding is the result of months of recent rainfall, attributed by meteorological experts to the El Niño weather phenomenon. More than 30 people have died, and 70,000 families have been affected by the natural disaster.

(Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael D. Wimbish is assigned to SOUTHCOM Public Affairs.)

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