March 3, 2010

Maine man evacuated to Dominican Republic


— By

Kennebec Journal

A 22-year-old college student from Maine who was in the epicenter of Tuesday's earthquake in Haiti has been evacuated from Port-au-Prince and is expected back in the United States today, according to his father.

Austin Webbert of Wayne is scheduled to arrive in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., along with one of his University of Miami classmates who went with him to Haiti.

David Webbert said he spoke by phone with his son on Thursday evening, and continued communicating with him on Friday. ''I learned that he safely made it out of Haiti to the Dominican Republic,'' he wrote in an e-mail.

Austin Webbert, a senior at the University of Miami, had been in Haiti since Jan. 9 with a professor and a handful of classmates. It was his fourth trip to the country, his father said.

He was escorted from the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince to an airport, where a U.S. Coast Guard plane flew him to Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital.

''Before (the phone conversation), we had been receiving conflicting reports about his location and safety,'' David Webbert wrote.

Austin Webbert, a 2005 graduate of North Yarmouth Academy, is studying history and Latin American studies.

He and his classmates went to Port-au-Prince to do academic research and work on a philanthropic initiative called the Soley Uni project, in which participants build youth community centers in Cité Soleil, a shanty town of 350,000 on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

Austin was reluctant to leave Haiti at a time when it could benefit from assistance, his father said in an interview on Wednesday. ''But they were given no choice.''


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