ARCHIVED - Operation HESTIA

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Operation HESTIA was the Canadian Forces participation in humanitarian operations conducted in response to the catastrophic earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 12 January 2010.

Op HESTIA was the military component of a whole-of-government response that also involved Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) and the Canadian International Development Agency.

The mission

At 16:53:09 hours local time (21:53:09 UTC) on 12 January 2010, Haiti was struck by an earthquake measured at 7.3 on the Richter scale. The epicentre of the earthquake was located about 15 km from the centre of Port-au-Prince at a depth of 10 km. Significant aftershocks followed, including at least 12 having magnitudes between 5.0 and 5.9.

Haiti is located at the west end of the seismically active Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Port-au-Prince, the capital, was levelled by tremors twice before, in 1751 and 1770. In 1946, an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale hit Samana in the neighbouring Dominican Republic.

The tremor damaged or destroyed most of the important buildings in Port-au-Prince, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly, the National Penitentiary, most of the city's hospitals, and the headquarters of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Fortunately, the MINUSTAH logistics base was spared. Basic services such as water and electricity collapsed almost entirely, and all surviving health care facilities were flooded with the injured. According to Red Cross estimates, some 3 million people - one third of Haiti's population - were affected by the quake.

Joint Task Force Haiti

Commander: Brigadier-General Guy Laroche

Joint Task Force Haiti (JTFH) was a humanitarian operations task force with a mandate to deliver a wide range of services in support of the Government of Haiti and the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. In particular, JTFH offered emergency medical services; engineering expertise; mobility by sea, land and air; and defence and security support. At peak, the maritime, land and air components of JTFH comprised about 2,050 personnel divided between Port-au-Prince, Léogâne and Jacmel.

Maritime Component

Commanded by Captain (Navy)

  • the destroyer HMCS Athabaskan, carrying a CH-124 Sea King helicopter detachment from 12 Wing Shearwater, cruising off Léogâne
  • the frigate HMCS Halifax cruising off Jacmel

Air Component

Operating from Toussaint Louverture International Airport at Port-au-Prince and the municipal airfield in Jacmel the Air Component consisted of:

  • Six CH-146 Griffon helicopters from 1 Wing squadrons across Canada based in Port-au-Prince and supporting operations in Jacmel and Léogâne; and
  • Airfield operations personnel from 2 Air Movements Squadron, 8 Air Communications and Control Squadron and 8 Air Maintenance Squadron working at both airfield locations.

Land Component

  • At Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince:
    • Joint Task Force Headquarters, including:
      • the Task Force Commander's staff
      • a signals squadron
    • the Joint Task Force Support Element, offering materiel management, transport, maintenance, Military Police and medical services
    • An urban rescue and recovery team made up of search-and-rescue technicians and firefighters from bases and wings across Canada
    • A detachment of Military Police to support the Canadian Embassy in downtown Port-au-Prince
  • At Jacmel:
    • The Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART)
  • At Léogâne:
    • 1 Canadian Field Hospital, made up of health services and logistics personnel from bases and wings across Canada
    • 3rd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment Group from Valcartier, comprising
      • two rifle companies
      • one support company
      • a squadron of sappers from 5 Combat Engineer Regiment

JTFH received extensive support from 8 Wing Trenton, the home of transport squadrons flying the CC-130 Hercules tactical airlifter, the CC-144 Challenger long-range executive jet, and the CC-150 Polaris and CC-177 Globemaster III strategic airlifters.

Previous Canadian operations in Haiti

  • Operation HORATIO World Food Programme, September 2008
  • Haiti 2004-4 December 2004
  • Haiti 2004-3 October 2004
  • Haiti 2004-2 October 2004
  • Haiti 2004-1 September 2004
  • Operation HAMLET United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), May 2004-present
  • Operation HALO MINUSTAH, March-August 2004
  • Multinational Interim Force, February-July 2004
  • Operation PRINCIPAL February-March 2004
  • Operation HUMBLE May 2001
  • Haiti 1999 December 1999
  • Operation COMPLIMENT United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH), January 1998-March 2000
  • Operation CONSTABLE United Nations Transition Mission in Haiti (UNTMIH), July 1997-November 1997
  • Operation STABLE United Nations Support Mission in Haiti (UNSMIH), June 1996-July 1997
  • Operation STANDARD UNSMIH, June 1996-July 1997
  • Operation DIALOGUE January-December 1994
  • Operation FORWARD ACTION Multinational Force (MNF), October 1993-September 1994
  • Operation CAULDRON United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH), September 1993-June 1996
  • Operation ESCORT November 1991-March 1992
  • Operation HERITAGE United Nations Observer Group for the Verification of the Elections in Haiti (ONUVEH), November 1990-February 1991
  • Haiti 1989 January-October 1989
  • Operation BANDIT January-February 1988
  • Haiti 1963 May 1963
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