U.S. Navy ships head for Haiti

Jan. 14, 2010 at 9:58 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- A U.S. aircraft carrier and a hospital ship are en route to Haiti with 5,500 soldiers and Marines from Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, N.C., officials said.

The USS Carl Vinson, with three operating rooms and a few dozen hospital beds on board, was scheduled to arrive Friday in Haiti, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

The hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, which has 250 beds, is not expected to leave Baltimore until this weekend and may not reach Port-au-Prince until late next week. The ship was still loading supplies, officials said.

The 7-magnitude quake Tuesday left Port-au-Prince in ruins, bringing down hospitals, government buildings and schools as well as thousands of homes.

The role of the soldiers, once they arrive, is uncertain. Officials said they could be used for relief efforts or to help restore order, if necessary.

The 2,000 Marines will not land unless they are needed, officials said.

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