March 4, 2010

Column: Relief delivery to orphanage tantalizingly close

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com
Columnist

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Lewiston native Father Marc Boisvert, third from left, is flanked by Sea Hunter owner Greg Brooks of Gorham as they walk from one meeting with government officials to another Wednesday in Les Cayes, Haiti.

Photo by Bill Nemitz/Staff Writer

click image to enlarge

Haitian officials wait while Hope Village founder Father Marc Boisvert, Sea Hunter owner Greg Brooks, interpreter Felix Vital and ship Captain Gary Esper confer Wednesday during discussions on offloading the Maine relief ship's cargo in Les Cayes.

Photo by Bill Nemitz/Staff Writer

The rest of the aid aboard the Sea Hunter, including 80 tons of food, medicine, clothing, tents and other equipment donated by people from all over Maine, will go directly to earthquake refugees in Les Cayes and others who are still stuck in the disaster zone 110 miles to the east, in Port-au-Prince.

Les Cayes' only usable dock is blocked by several sunken ships, so the Sea Hunter's cargo will have to be placed parcel-by-parcel onto smaller vessels and ferried ashore.

(Left off the negotiating table were a 37-foot mobile medical unit earmarked for a regional health program in northern Haiti and a solar-powered water desalinator bound for a church-orphanage near Port-au-Prince. Plans for the two heavy items remained uncertain Wednesday. Efforts to unload them at a deep-water dock in the port of Miragoane failed earlier this week.)

Moments after reaching the cargo distribution agreement, Aubourg summoned Les Cayes Mayor Pierre Yvon Chery along with Jean Senozier Despreaux, a reporter for Television Nationale Haiti.

The delegate and mayor then spent several moments speaking in Creole to the local reporter.

Boisvert and Vital quietly explained that they were telling Despreaux to be at the dock the next morning, and how they wanted the story presented.

"They're saying, 'This is a story about how the government is working for the regular people,'" Vital said. "They want people to know that they are responsible for this happening."

Boisvert, his deeply rooted skepticism toward Haitian government on full display, later put it another way.

"The agent will take credit for everything. The delegate will take credit for everything. The mayor will take credit for everything," Boisvert said dryly. "Everyone will take credit for everything. It's amazing!"

Finally, Aubourg announced that the ever-growing group next had to meet with a local customs agent back at the city's dock.

Upon arriving at the customs office with a large crowd of curious Haitians in tow, the entourage was told that the agent (whose name was not immediately available) had gone to lunch.

He appeared almost an hour later, and another sit-down began -- this one ending with the Haitian officials' request that the Sea Hunter be brought into port immediately so it could be boarded and inspected.

Capt. Esper, nervous about the numerous coral reefs and shipwrecks dotting the city's harbor, balked at the notion of rushing the vessel into Les Cayes as sunset approached.

"We'll have to sound (the bottom) ourselves," he said. "We can't take the risk of losing the ship."

With that, the parties agreed that the ship would drop anchor as close as possible to the dock in Les Cayes by 7 this morning.

Assuming the customs inspection goes smoothly, Aubourg said, the offloading onto smaller vessels then could begin immediately.

With that, Boisvert patted Brooks on the shoulder and headed for his nearby vehicle.

"I'm going home," Boisvert said with a weary grin. "Too much excitement for one day."

Back aboard the Sea Hunter on Wednesday evening, Brooks said he is optimistic that the Sea Hunter's mission, at long last, is nearing its end.

"If we can get through the inspection in the morning, then we should be all right," Brooks said. "I'm extremely hopeful."

 

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@pressherald.com

 

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