The U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay weathered Hurricane Matthew with minimal damage and no loss of life, the military said Wednesday. Power was fully restored across the 45-square-mile base by 8 a.m., according to the base commander. The base was once again producing its own water and the Navy cafeteria fed sailors by noon.
There was no specific information on damage, beyond debris and water in the road and ferry landings and damage to the beaches that are popular spots for scuba diving, swimming and barbecuing when troops are off duty.
At the prison, spokesman Navy Capt. John Filostrat said commanders chose to leave low-value detainees in the Camp 6 prison building. He would not disclosed what the military did with 15 former CIA captives in a secret prison called Camp 7 that in the past had structural problems.
But Filostrat did say there was no meaningful damage to the Camp Justice compound, which was evacuated for the storm. The alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and four accused accomplices, all held in Camp 7, are due at the war court next week, and Filostrat said on Wednesday afternoon that prison staff members “plan on supporting [military] commissions next week as scheduled.”
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The Pentagon has scheduled an aircraft loaded with more than 100 participants to depart Andrews Air Force base on Saturday for the week of pretrial hearings.
At Guantánamo, base commander Navy Capt. David Culpepper said the outpost would be ready by Thursday to receive the 717 family members — mostly spouses and children of sailors and base contractors — who were evacuated Sunday to “safe haven” in the Florida Panhandle. But, he told base residents over Radio Gitmo that, because Matthew was due to hit the Eastern Seaboard, the military would likely not be able to return them until sometime next week.
“Initial damage assessments by installation personnel showed that buildings, roadways and other infrastructure did not sustain significant damage,” the Navy said in a statement from headquarters in Jacksonville. “The beaches will need more extensive repairs and cleanup, and a few sections will be opened once the initial cleanup is completed.”
The airlift is the first known evacuation of so-called “non-essential” residents from Guantánamo since September 1994, when the military evacuated 2,200 family members and civilians from the base. At the time, the outpost was overwhelmed by about 45,000 Haitian and Cuban migrants who were intercepted at sea while trying to reach the United States, stretching resources at the outpost that makes its own electricity and desalinates its own water — like a ship at sea.
Guantánamo was likewise used as a staging platform for relief supplies after Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake. But a spokesman for the Southern Command, Jose Ruiz, said Wednesday evening that was not part of relief planning following Hurricane Matthew.
The base last took a significant hit during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 when the storm tore up the war court compound called Camp Justice, ripped boats from their berths and washed away the docks used by the ferries that connect Leeward and Windward sides of the base across Guantánamo Bay.
Guantánamo prison statement
Detainees in 6 sheltered in place. We don't discuss Camp 7 operations. All detainees remained safe during the storm. JTF troopers sheltered in place in various locations on the base and also remained safe. Damage is minor — some debris and water in the roads but all passable. We'll be able to resume normal operations very soon and plan on supporting commissions next week as scheduled. — Navy Capt. John Filostrat, Joint Task Force (JTF) Public Affairs officer