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HMCS Athabaskan, Halifax to be in Haiti early Tuesday

Crew members of HMCS Athabaskan listen intently to the informal briefing held by Cmdr. Peter Grain on the landing deck of his ship on Sunday. (TIM KROCHAK / Staff)

ABOARD HMCS ATHABASKAN — The two Canadian navy vessels will reach Haiti and start delivering humanitarian assistance early Tuesday.

HMCS Halifax and her 220 crew members will head for Jacmel, a small port city on the south coast of Haiti. HMCS Athabaskan and her crew of 278 will head for Leogane, a small city just west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Both communities have been badly damaged by the earthquake, with many buildings destroyed, many dead and many people desperate for food, water and medical care.

Both ships will send small teams ashore beginning early Tuesday, sending boat after boat ashore with crew members ready to help — about 200 crew in total on the ground immediately. Neither vessel contains significant amounts of food aid or water for delivery and military planners were trying Monday to find supplies they could deliver.

Neither community has as yet received much aid from the outside world, but Leogane appears to be harder hit.

A British aid team of searchers reached the community on Sunday, apparently the first international aid to get through.

Leogane, 20 kilometres from Port-au-Prince, had a population of 100,000, but an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people are thought to have been killed in the quake. The survivors are now in desperate straits. Almost all the buildings have been destroyed.

Jean Ky Louis, a shop worker, told a reporter from Britain's Mirror newspaper: "We have seen no rescues here, no help at all. People are dying of starvation, even the survivors. We have nothing, we need help. We welcome the British with open arms. We hoped they would come."

Jacmel, a community of 40,000 on the south coast, has also suffered serious damage and casualties, but it appears to be less severely damaged than Leogane. It also, however, has had little or no help from the outside world.

Capt. Art McDonald, commander of the maritime component of Canada's military mission to Haiti, was co-ordinating the naval relief efforts.

"Our arrival will triple the amount of Canadian forces in Haiti, and double the amount on the ground," he said.

Crew on the Athabaskan and Halifax are preparing and training, getting ready for what they expect will be a long and very difficult day Tuesday.

Both vessels received fuel from USNS Big Horn, an American tanker, north of Haiti on Monday, receiving fuel through a long hose while under way — what the military calls a RAS, replenishment at sea. HMCS Athabaskan received 470,000 litres of fuel.



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