The amphibious assault ship Wasp has arrived in the U.S. Virgin Islands and two other Navy ships are enroute to the region, which was devastated when Hurricane Irma made landfall Wednesday as a Category 5 storm, officials said.
The Wasp is the first Navy ship to arrive in the Virgin Islands, and its six helicopters have begun flying critical care patients from the island of St. Thomas to St. Croix, transporting supplies and conducting other missions, U.S. Northern Command announced on Thursday.
The ship left Norfolk, Virginia for Sasebo, Japan, on Aug. 30 to serve as the forward-deployed flagship for 7th Fleet’s amphibious force when it was dispatched to the region, according to Fleet Forces Command.
Meanwhile, the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge, with about 690 members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard, and the dock landing ship Oak Hill have also been tasked with supporting relief efforts in the Virgin Islands, an FFC news release says.
The Oak Hill is expected to be in place to carry out relief missions on Friday, followed by the Kearsarge on Saturday, said NORTHCOM spokesman Michael Kucharek. After the Kearsarge arrives, the Wasp will resume its Navy mission.
“The combined aircraft on all three ships include three UH-1Y Marine Utility Helicopters, three CH-53E Marine Heavy Lift Helicopters, five MV-22 Marine Tiltrotor aircraft and nine MH-60S Navy Medium Lift Helicopters,” a command news release says.
Hurricane Irma is projected to hit southern Florida on Sunday morning as a Category 4 storm, according to media reports. Two other Navy ships could be called upon to provide storm relief: The amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima, with about 300 Marines and sailors and three CH-53E helicopters aboard, and the landing platform dock New York.