As Hurricane Matthew moves slowly towards Cuba with winds of up to 145 miles per house, the U.S. Navy has issued a mandatory evacuation order for approximately 700 spouses and children on board Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
The Navy is coordinating with U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Transportation Command for an airlift to transport family members via military aircraft to safe haven at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Family members would remain in Pensacola until it is safe to return.
“NAS Pensacola has quarters to house the families, and the Fleet and Family Service Center counselors will be available to provide assistance,” said a Navy spokesperson. “The remaining military and civilian personnel will shelter in place and be able to support recovery efforts once safe to do so following the storm’s passage.”
USO Northwest Florida is also stepping up to help evacuees. “We are standing by with extra volunteers to help in any way needed,” said USO director Dana Cervantes. “So far, we have assembled welcome bags with snacks, drinks, activities for the kids, and made sure our center doors are open and ready to use our free resources such as wifi, computers, laptops, gaming, rec rooms, movie rooms, and food and beverages.”
“The USO is proud to be the force behind the forces, so we look forward to learning of any more ways we can help,” Cervantes added.
Matthew is expected to reach Cuba late on Monday, potentially making a direct hit on Guantánamo. Evacuated non-essential personnel included about 700 family members of those serving there.
There are about 5,500 people living on the base, including 61 men held at the detention center. The Navy said there are no plans at this time to evacuate any prisoners.