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Gates: Thousands of troops head to Haiti

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Gates: Thousands of troops head to Haiti
E4Qm3 Robert Brazell (C), joined by crew members, works on the bridge of the USS Bataan as the ship sails to North Carolina to pick up Marines, in the Atlantic Ocean on January 15, 2010. The USS Bataan is underway to Haiti to assist with the U.S. relief effort following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated the country. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- By the end of the weekend, between 9,000 to 10,000 U.S. troops will be in Haiti or afloat offshore, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday.

U.S. soldiers and Marines will help 7,000 U.N. peacekeepers and about 2,000 police provide security in the quake-stricken Caribbean nation, Gates said.

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"We are clearly in a position to do more than others, partly by our proximity and partly by our capabilities," Gates said.

About 1,000 U.S. forces were on the ground Friday, Gates said during a joint news conference with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen.

Red Cross officials said the death toll from Tuesday's magnitude-7 temblor could reach 50,000, the Pentagon said in a release.

The international community is offering military personnel, disaster-response teams, portable hospitals, canine search-and-rescue teams, and relief and medical supplies, Mullen said.

"In this situation, the military is best able to supply security, search-and-rescue capabilities, potable water and medical facilities," he said.

Mullen said Friday the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arrived off Port-au-Prince outfitted with 19 helicopters, 51 hospital beds, three operating rooms, "hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per day production capability and a significant capacity to deliver disaster-relief supplies."

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Hospital ship USNS Comfort -- with medical personnel, medical capabilities and medical supplies -- will arrive off the Haitian coast by the end of next week, Mullen said.

Army Lt. Gen. P.K. "Ken" Keen said the immediate priorities were providing healthcare and relief supplies to Haitians in need, ABC News reported.

"There's an immense need for medical relief, and we're anticipating, of course, need for basic items such as food. Water, particularly, is in need," said Keen, deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command in Miami and head of the joint U.S. military task force charged with the Haitian earthquake relief effort.

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