Hurricane Eta hit the Central American region, where torrential rains have caused flooding and landslides. Although the storm didn’t pass directly over Panama, it left dozens of people dead and missing.
To support the search, rescue, and evacuation efforts of the government of Panama, U.S. Southern Command, through Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-Bravo, deployed a team of 42 service members and three helicopters, one HH-60 Black Hawk and two CH-47 Chinook. The JTF-Bravo team joined the Panamanian government’s Operation Homeland (Operación Patria) to respond to the critical situation in the provinces of Chiriquí, Veraguas, and Coclé, coordinating efforts with Panama’s National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC, in Spanish) and the Panamanian Air and Naval Service (SENAN, in Spanish).
JTF-Bravo has also been providing support to the Comarca Ngabe-Buglé, the largest indigenous territory in the country with a mountainous topography that is difficult to access.
“The @senanpanama together with the @jtfbravo of U.S. Southern Command, brought water and 385 bags of food as humanitarian aid to the families affected by the floods in the communities of Boca de Remedios and Junta Maní [Comarca Ngabe-Buglé],” the Presidency of Panama said on Twitter on November 7.
Commissioner Edson Castillo, SENAN director of Operations, highlighted JTF-Bravo’s rescue operation of an entire Family in the province of Chiriquí. “The Warrior 70, a Chinook, which is part of the contingent of aircraft that JTF-Bravo sent to Panama, carried out the rescue of eight members of a family on November 7, who were isolated as a result of the landslides and the obstruction of the road leading to the district of Tierras Altas,” said Commissioner Castillo to Diálogo.
Another support mission of JTF-Bravo is to help SINAPROC move emergency personnel to critical locations to respond to life-threatening conditions.
At a press conference on November 7, Panamanian Minister of Public Security Juan Pino said that 2,587 people have been affected by the hurricane and that 832 people have been rescued. He added that there were about 25 landslides.
“Thanks to the @jtfbravo of U.S. Southern Command for allocating three helicopters and a U.S. team of 42 people to redouble efforts in the search, rescue, and evacuation of our affected brothers and sisters. Solidarity among countries for the well-being of our people!” said Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo on Twitter.
For his part, Commissioner Castillo highlighted the combined work between SENAND and JTF-Bravo, which he described as “extraordinary.”
“The bilateral relationship between both nations has always made clear the support and brotherhood that characterize us,” he added.