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10 NAVY NEWS, APRIL 2010

A chain of

A

HUMAN chain hurriedly passes food ashore in a remote

Haitian village – the fi rst substantial delivery to their cut-off community in

nearly two months.

Villagers, soldiers, sailors. All chip in to transfer the essentials of life from ship to shore, then up a clay path to a church hall in the fishing village of Anse- à-Veau.

The food – enough to support 6,600 people for four weeks – comes courtesy of one of the few vessels in Haitian waters capable of such a mission: RFA Largs Bay.

Her Mexeflote powered raft

can reach places no other ship or boat is able to. Even it couldn’t come right up to the beach in the shallow waters of Anse-à-Veau, some 60 miles west of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

Since the January 12 quake which devastated this already- impoverished land, the fi sh

ing

community has largely been cut off from the rest of the country. The destruction caused by the terrible seismic shock has been compounded by mudslides. The result: until Largs’ arrival, the

● Never break the chain... Locals in Anse-à-Veau help soldiers and sailors from RFA Largs Bay unload one month’s supply of food and (bottom) Lt Cdr Richard Walters and youngsters take a breather in the Caribbean heat

people of Anse-à-Veau relied on occasional air drops of food.

And so 275,000

ready meals, more than 30 tonnes of rice, six tons of beans, in excess of 200 boxes of corn soya blend, 100-plus boxes of vegetable oil, and 13 bags of salt were provided by the UN’s World Food Programme for delivery to Anse-à-Veau... duly delivered by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary during a four-day relief operation. Normally the loading and discharge of cargo is solely down to the soldiers of the 17 Port and Maritime Regiment who serve with Largs, but in Anse-à-Veau the bay was too shallow for the Mexefl o

te to

get to the shoreline. Plan B. A human chain.

“It was fantastic to see everyone working together. The interaction between the ship’s company and the villagers was completely natural and spontaneous,” said Largs Bay’s CO Capt Ian Johnson RFA. “For many, this was the first opportunity for them to get off the ship in six weeks and they were doing what they left the UK to do.

“I have never seen a group

of sailors or soldiers, happier doing hard graft than I witnessed here. Oblivious to the heat, dust, sea water and sheer amount of boxes to shift they just got on with it. “Officers and ratings alike they just got stuck in, got dirty

and felt proud to be doing their bit for the people of Haiti and particularly the community of Anse-à-Veau.

“This is why we came to Haiti.”

The ship and her aid were welcomed by the village priest, Father David Fontaine. “This food has come at a vital time as we have almost run out,” he told the sailors and soldiers. “We have a very poor community that has grown signifi can tly since the earthquake as families have fl ed Port-au- Prince to join their relatives. The community has almost doubled in size since the disaster and the strain on the poor has been the greatest.

“The villagers are very proud

and refuse to ask for food but through the church we will store and organise the distribution starting with those that need it most.’’ World Food Programme

t tonnage of aid to As Largs made her way

across 4,283 miles of ocean from Marchwood to Port-au- Prince, personnel aboard vowed to raise money for the earth- quake victims by trying to row the distance. Taking it in turns to use the

rowing machines in Largs’ spacious gym, the sailors, soldiers and Royal Marines aboard managed to beat their ship (top speed 18kts) into Haiti.

Their efforts raised £10,000 in pledges and donations; if you fancy adding to the total, visit www.justgiving.

com/LargsBayracetoHaiti.

The money will go to the

project manager Jonathan Thompson added: “It is fantastic to see the community coming together to help unload these vital stores.

“Largs Bay is just perfect for our needs and is the only credible way of distributing signifi can

this remote area. I think that the locals have been blown away by the arrival of the ship and this will be talked about for years to come.’’

Largs sailed initially with donations from the British government and UK charities who responded to the January 12 quake.

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