By Jim Garamone
WASHINGTON, July 25, 2006 – The Defense Department evacuated 957 U.S. citizens from Lebanon to Cyprus yesterday aboard the contracted cruise ship Orient Queen, bringing the total to 12,870 since the crisis in Lebanon began July 16, DoD officials said today. Also, DoD airlifted the first humanitarian supplies promised to those in the war-torn country, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. Three helicopters delivered three kits of medical supplies to Red Cross personnel. Each of the three medical kits has enough medicine and supplies to meet the needs of 10,000 people for three months. Seven other kits have arrived in Cyprus and will be delivered later.
Today the contract vessel Rahmah will end its contract period with the U.S. effort and will make its final run from Beirut to Cyprus. The last scheduled ship evacuation will be tomorrow, U.S. embassy officials in Beirut said. About 6,100 servicemembers -- 5,900 of them afloat -- are participating under the command of Task Force 59, U.S. officials said.
Officials said they will conduct future evacuations on an emergency, case-by-case basis. Embassy officials are continuing to develop and facilitate departure options for a number of citizens who wish to leave southern Lebanon. Whitman said "a few hundred" Americans are still in southern Lebanon, and that busing them to the port in Beirut is the favored method of evacuation. The Ocean Queen, the contracted vessel Vittoria M, and the Swift, a high-speed vessel manned by U.S. Navy personnel, will continue to make runs into Beirut evacuating American citizens or delivering humanitarian supplies.
The USS Nashville, USS Trenton, USS Whidbey Island, USS Mount Whitney, USS Gonzalez, USS Barry and the Swift -- part of the USS Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group -- will remain in the region, officials said.
Air Force military flights and DoD-chartered commercial aircraft transported 1,749 Americans from Cyprus and Turkey to the United States yesterday. A total of 6,130 Americans have used these flights, with another 3,800 expected to arrive in the U.S. today. The Defense Logistics Agency has delivered supplies to the effort. DLA has delivered 2,000 cases of individual military rations, 240 modules of group rations that feed 50 people each, 11,700 cases of bottled water, 2,000 cots, 1,412 blankets and jet fuel.