BACKGROUND: The 720-square-mile island, located 500 miles from the Malagasy Republic (formerly Madagascar), was struck February 6 by Cyclone Gervaise - leaving nine persons dead, 59 injured and over 10,000 homeless.
BACKGROUND: The 720-square-mile island, located 500 miles from the Malagasy Republic (formerly Madagascar), was struck February 6 by Cyclone Gervaise - leaving nine persons dead, 59 injured and over 10,000 homeless. The storm, said to be the worst to hit Mauritius in 15 years, disrupted communications, shut down power and water systems, forced closing of the country's only airport and caused extensive property damage.
The first Navy ship to arrive at Mauritius was the USS CAMDEN, which had been scheduled to visit the capital city of Port Louis for rest and recreation. The storm delayed entry into port until February 8, at which time the purpose of her visit was changed to relief and rescue.
The USS ENTERPRISE arrived February 11 to continue to work begun by the USS CAMDEN which sailed from Port Louis after five days of work. Two days later the USS MARS joined the USS ENTERPRISE in the relief effort.
For the next several days, working parties from the ships were involved in a wide variety of relief, reconstruction and clean-up operations. The work ranged from clearing roads to rebuilding part of a local orphanage.
First priority was to help restore electric power, which had been almost totally knocked out by the storm. During CAMDEN's first day in port, members of the Mauritian Electric Power Authority completed a survey of the entire island from one of the ship's CH-46 helicopters. Teams of electricians from the USS CAMDEN, and later from the USS ENTERPRISE and USS MARS, fanned out to assist the Mauritians in raising fallen poles and restringing lines. As each day passed, electric power became available in more sections of the island.
The island's water system was also a crucial problem. Supplies on hand were contaminated with debris, vital water mains were broken and filtration systems flooded. Helicopters from the USS CAMDEN began transporting heavy pipe sections into the area where breaks had occurred. Operating off the USS ENTERPRISE, USS MARS hellos lifted the one-ton pipe sections into place. in one four-hour period the USS MARS helicopters