Brazil Extends Mission in Haiti after Hurricane Irma

Brazilian service members participating in the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti surveyed the effects of Hurricane Irma’s passage through the country, ready to provide support.
Andréa Lemos/Diálogo | 5 October 2017

Rapid Response

The FAB aircraft rescued 14 people, among them seven Brazilians and one American, on Saint Martin Island, which was struck by Hurricane Irma. (Photo: Brazilian Air Force First Sergeant Johnson Barros)

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH, per its French acronym) ended on August 31st, but the threat faced by Hurricane Irma caused the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to authorize an exceptional extension of the Brazilian service members’ humanitarian operations until September 17th. “We reactivated our troops, who were already there with all the material in storage and with their vehicles, which were also ready to be loaded onto ships said Brazilian Army Lieutenant General Ajax Porto Pinheiro, the commander of MINUSTAH, in an interview for Jovem Pan Radio in Brazil.

Heavy winds and rain struck the north and northeast of Haiti on September 7th, leaving 3,445 people homeless and one person dead. The day before, on September 6th, two groups of 48 service members had been moved to the north of the country. The troops were equipped with vehicles and machinery to remove road obstacles, in case it was needed, as well as inflatable rafts.

“Ninety-six service members from the Peacekeeping Infantry Battalion of the 26th Brazilian Contingent, including medical personnel and the Peacekeeping Force’s Engineering Company around the city of Arcahai, south of Saint-Marc and north of Port-au-Prince, where they remained at a secure location, hunkering down as Hurricane Irma passed through on September 7th,” reported the 3rd Section of the Brazilian Army’s Land Operations Command (COTER, per its Portuguese acronym), which is in charge of Army peacekeeping missions. Meanwhile, at the Brazilian Contingent’s other bases in Haiti, 874 service members remained trained and ready in the event of an emergency.

The day after Irma passed, these groups headed to the cities of Port-de-Paix and Cap-Haitien, in the north and northeast of the country, to survey the areas and to check whether the roads needed clearing. “That ended up not being needed, due to the minor amount of damage caused by the hurricane in Haiti,” COTER reported. MINUSTAH helicopters were also used to fly over the affected areas and identify requests for assistance.

Fortunately, the effects of the storm were not as bad as what the MINUSTAH teams had imagined. “We expected the worst from Hurricane Irma because we had a traumatic experience less than a year ago with Hurricane Matthew, which was a lower-intensity storm than this one now,” Lt. Gen. Ajax said, adding that “Irma had been destroying everything in its path. By some miracle that I still can’t understand, Mother Nature spared Haiti.”

Having completed this final mission, the Brazilian troops began their demobilization. The troops returned home on September 28th, with just 103 service members remaining in Haiti to send the material used in the mission, such as weapons and armored vehicles, back to Brazil. They will head home on October 10th.

Caribbean rescue

On September 13th, the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, per its Portuguese acronym) carried out a rescue of 14 people who were on Saint Martin. Unlike Haiti, that Caribbean island suffered heavy damage from Hurricane Irma. Nearly all of the schools on the island were destroyed, on the very day that children were supposed to go back to school.

In the group brought back to Brasília on a FAB aircraft were seven Brazilians, one American, four Dutch, and two other people. As for the new storms threatening the Caribbean region, the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported on September 19th that “the Brazilian government reiterates its show of solidarity with all nations affected by Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria in recent weeks.”

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