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  • Writer's pictureCarl Sandy Alcema

Hospital ship Comfort temporarily suspends medical services in Haiti

A U.S. Navy hospital ship docked in southwest Haiti has temporarily suspended medical services after 19 people with the mission fell overboard as heavy swells hit the Caribbean region, officials said Tuesday.

It happened Monday night and involved 12 military personnel and seven civilians with the USNS Comfort who were returning to the ship after caring for patients on land, said Lewis Preddy, a U.S. Navy spokesman. All 19 were pulled back onto the small boat, which was then lifted by a crane onto the ship. He said the usual process is for personnel to use a water taxi and step onto a ladder to board the ship, but that the heavy surf made that impossible. He said two people were injured but were expected to recover. Preddy said officials were figuring out how to continue the mission while ensuring people's safety. The heavy swell was expected to last until at least the weekend, according to meteorologists.

Rear Adm. James Aiken, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command-U.S. 4th Fleet, told The Associated Press that officials were working hard to bring the mission in Haiti back online after it began on Monday. "The need is extremely great, and we're so excited to be able to provide some care," he said in a phone interview. Officials said they did not immediately have the number of patients that had been treated so far.

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