The amphibious assault helicopter carrier Dixmude began offloading medical equipment for Louis-Constant Fleming Hospital on Friday morning following its arrival in St. Martin waters on Thursday.
Helicopters were seen landing on the pitch of Jean-Louis Vanterpool Stadium delivering materials from the aircraft carrier that were picked up by the soldiers of the 33rd RIMA regiment who arrived last Sunday.
As the Préfecture had already indicated, the equipment is part of a forward medical evacuation post comprising 10 tents, 50 beds and air conditioners, amongst other supplies, to be installed close to Louis-Constant Fleming Hospital in case the hospital itself becomes over-burdened.
Guadeloupe France-Antilles.fr reported that Dixmude left Toulon, France, on April 3, spending 14 days at sea before arriving in the French Caribbean. She has been deployed as part of “Operation Resilience” to reinforce the armed forces in the West Indies in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ship is carrying 138 tons of freight, equipment and transport vehicles. For the most part, it is carrying 170,000 FFP2 masks, 1,000,000 surgical masks and hundreds of litres of hydro-alcoholic sanitiser gel. The supplies will be distributed among the various territories of the French West Indies according to estimated needs.
The carrier also transports four helicopters (one from civil security, one from the Gendarmerie and two military). “We are going to increase the medical evacuation service on all the islands. And that is for patients, including those suffering from COVID-19,” Rear Admiral Jean Hausermann, Commander of the Armed Forces in the French West Indies (FAA), told the website.
St. Martin will have two helicopters on rotation at its disposal for medical evacuations to Guadeloupe.
Part of the cargo from Dixmude will be loaded on board the supply vessel Dumont d’Urville of the armed forces in the West Indies which is due to reach French Guiana on Thursday, April 23. The arrival of Dixmude in Martinique is scheduled for Sunday and Guadeloupe on Saturday.
The Dixmude is carrying a crew of 300 men (sailors, mechanics, but also personal health specialists and disinfection experts). “It is not planned to put a lot of personnel ashore,” assured Admiral Hausermann.
He was reacting to concerns expressed by the UGTG Union in Guadeloupe, of sailors contaminating the Antillean population with COVID-19 in light of the recent news that 668 sailors had tested positive for COVID-19 on the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.
The union wrote to the Préfet of Guadeloupe, Director of regional health agency ARS, members of Parliament and local elected officials urging “extreme caution” and requesting that the entire crew of Dixmude be placed in 14 days quarantine.
Admiral Hauserman gave reassurance that “extremely rigorous” preventive measures had been exercised on board the ship, including respecting social distancing and wearing of masks. “There is no suspicion of COVID-19 on board, and the 14 days crossing the Atlantic corresponded to the incubation period of the virus,” he said.
The Daily Herald.