WASHINGTON -- U.S. Marines are standing by on the USS Iwo Jima off the coast of Haiti, preparing to help take relief supplies to the nation being battered by Hurricane Tomas.
Speaking by telephone from the amphibious ship, Lieutenant Colonel Chris S. Richie says he planned to start sending helicopters Friday to assess humanitarian needs, but those flights were canceled after the storm turned into a hurricane.
Richie is head of a force that has been on a humanitarian mission in the Caribbean and Latin America since mid-July. The Iwo Jima, with 500 Marines, was pulled out of its planned humanitarian mission in nearby Suriname to sail to Haiti.
Richie said the Marines will be part of a larger effort including the United Nations and the U.S. Agency for International Development.