Four months after Hurricane Iota devastated the Colombian Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina, the Colombian Military Forces continue to show their dedication to the affected communities. In mid-March, the Colombian Navy amphibious landing ship ARC Golfo de Urabá provided additional logistics support and humanitarian aid to the islands, under the Ministry of Defense’s Plan Revival (Plan Renacer).
From mid-November 2020, when the category 5 hurricane hit the archipelago, destroying 98 percent of the infrastructure in the islands of Providencia and Santa Catalina, to early March 2021, Colombian service members transported hundreds of tons of aid such as food, tools, vehicles, and building materials.
“Today, we can have the positive outcome of having collected more than 17,000 tons of debris of different materials […] and transported drinking water on the ships. That was key to be able to supply water to the community when the dam was not yet working,” Colombian Navy Rear Admiral Hernando Mattos Dager, commander of the San Andrés and Providencia Specific Command, told Diálogo. “Now we are facing the most complex challenge, which is rebuilding houses. The national government has committed to delivering 1,134 houses to those who lost everything […].”
About 1,100 service members of the Colombian Army, Air Force, and Navy, as well as some 80 firefighters, state officials, and Red Cross members, are taking part in reconstruction efforts on the islands. Since March, military engineers have conducted demolition works on semi-destroyed houses in Providencia to later build new residences.
This was the case of the Henry Bryan family in Providencia, who lost their home during the hurricane and, thanks to Navy units, settled in a three-bedroom prefabricated house equipped with a bathroom, kitchen, and balcony in mid-March. “I had no place to sleep with my family,” said the housewife to Unidos por el Archipiélago (United for the Archipelago), a portal of the Ministry of Defense dedicated to Plan Revival. “The sailors were the first to arrive, clear, and collect all the debris, prepare the land, and take part in building efforts; I am very grateful to them.”
In addition to the ship ARC Golfo de Urabá, the Navy deployed other maritime units, including frigates, ocean patrol ships, rapid reaction units, and naval units with airplanes and helicopters, making available their search and rescue equipment, diving and rescue equipment, and shipbuilding company. For its part, the Army deployed dump trucks and compact loaders, together with its military engineers, while the Air Force mobilized its transport aircraft, including C-130 Hercules and tactical airplanes.
In late November 2020, as part of international cooperation efforts, the U.S. Army deployed its amphibious landing ship USAV Chickahominy (LCU 2011), loaded with 130 tons of humanitarian aid to support emergency assistance in the islands. In mid-February 2021, the French Navy ship Dumont D’Urville completed a logistics support mission, providing about 40 tons of construction materials and household appliances.
“We will remain at the forefront of the situation, until we can rest assured that all the people on our islands of Providencia and Santa Catalina have overcome the emergency,” Rear Adm. Mattos concluded.