Sept. 6 (UPI) — The United States, Britain and China announced the commitment of funds and goods to help hurricane-devastated Bahamas.
U.S. military and civilian emergency teams from the United States have been sent to the Bahamas, where tens of thousands of people need food and supplies after Hurricane Dorian struck the nation of the tens of thousands of residents on the small islands.
The White House has encouraged donations through the Center for International Disaster Information website.
The U.S. Coast Guard said on Friday morning that it has rescued 205 people in the Bahamas since the start of the hurricane, conducting air operations from Andros Island, Bahamas, with seven MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters and five MH-65 Dolphin helicopters.
Search and rescue missions, area assessments and logistical support are included in the Coast Guard’s mission in support of the Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency and the Royal Bahamian Defense Force.
U.S. Marine Corps and Navy personnel in the Southeast United States have remained on alert to offer assistance, and the three ships and thousands of troops of the Marines’ Bataan Amphibious Ready Group are prepared for deployment to the Bahamas.
“It just happens that the Bataan is postured just off the North Carolina coast right now, because it was doing some maneuvers and preparation for readiness,” Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, head of U.S. Northern Command, said on Thursday. “It is actually loaded out in a manner that is actually fairly conducive to operations in support of a natural disaster.”
Britain, of which the Bahamas was a colony from 1718 until its 1973 independence, committed an initial $ 1.23 million to deliver critical aid supplies aboard Royal Navy ship RFA Mounts Bay.
On Wednesday, a Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter deployed with the ship rescued a British citizen trapped beneath rubble for several days on the Bahamas’ Great Abaco Island.
China committed $ 20,000 in goods as well, with Huang Qinguo, Chinese Ambassador to the Bahamas, assuring additional assistance in a ceremony on Wednesday. The action is of interest to White House officials concerned about the national security implications if China gets involved in the Bahamas’ needs.
A Chinese foothold there would be about 50 miles from the Florida coast, and a long-term relationship could be a part of China’s growing influence around the world. Economics, surveillance and potentially a naval base are among potential areas of concern.
After President Donald Trump removed the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Chinese President Xi Jinping began an aggressive campaign to do business with Latin American countries. China has spent billions building roads and telecommunications networks in the region, and has been a ready market for Latin American minerals and other commodities.
China will likely have a role in the reconstruction of the Bahamas and the United States does not want to be critical of any foreign government offering aid to the nation, noted former National Security Council advisor Jose Cardenas.
“The temptation is so great to take advantage of Chinese largesse,” Cardenas said. “But to the peoples of the [Western] hemisphere, the United States ought to be very clear in a public diplomacy campaign that the Chinese government largesse comes with a lot of baggage. It comes with a lot of strings attached, and it has implications for democratic institutions and rule of law.”