SAN JUAN – The US Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort arrived on Tuesday to provide support for Puerto Rico’s health care system after Hurricane Maria knocked out power across the island.
The ship is carrying 552 medical staff and 70 Marines and is equipped to handle as many as 200 patients a day.
The Comfort was deployed in the continental United States in 2005 following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Maria, which struck Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, is blamed for 16 deaths on the island.
With a dozen operating rooms and 1,000 beds, the Comfort is one of the world’s largest floating hospitals.
Built in 1987, the vessel’s first major mission was to provide medical services during the 1990-1991 Gulf War, when its staff took care of nearly 8,000 wounded soldiers.
The USNS Comfort was in action again in 1994, when hundreds of thousands of Haitians, fleeing from poverty in their country, took to the sea on rafts and rickety boats attempting reach Jamaica.
The Navy’s floating hospital also provided care in September 2001 following the terrorist attacks in New York.
The 273-meter (894-foot) long ship carries the world’s largest blood bank.