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RFA Largs Bay returns home after earthquake aid mission

A navy commander has told of his crew's delight after delivering aid to earthquake hit Haiti.

RFA Largs Bay has just returned from a mission to help supply the stricken country with aid.

While there the ship's crew carried out two urgent tasks for the World Food Programme.

The first was the delivery of enough food to feed 400,000 people for two weeks, near the capital Port Au Prince.

The second task at Anse a Veau involved a community which had been completely cut off by land slips and floods, and had survived on occasional air drops from the World Food Programme.

The aid delivered was enough to feed the community of 20,000 for two weeks.

Captain Ian Johnson, the commanding officer of Largs Bay, which was anchored in Stokes Bay before returning to its base at Marchwood yesterday afternoon, said: 'When we first arrived we didn't get the feeling of devastation because of where we were in Port Au Prince.

'As we moved out on to our second task, we started to get a real feel for the level of devastation and hardship that these people were having to go through.

'The guys were standing up to their knees in water in hot conditions passing food between them to the shore.

'These people had been without food for a considerable amount of time.'

Among the supplies the crew gave out included rice, peas, beans, vegetable oil, salt, boxes of corn soya and ready meals.

They also handed out materials including temporary shelters for those who have lost their homes, heavy construction equipment to clear and rebuild devastated towns, vehicles to transport key medical staff and supplies, and water purification tablets.

Capt Johnson described the operation as a real 'team effort'.

'The whole experience of sailing from Marchwood to Haiti and back in two months has been a whirlwind of planning and execution and has demonstrated the utility and flexibility of the RFA,' he said.

'We were delighted to be able to assist and we felt we were making a difference.'

Surgeon Lieutenant Jim Watchorn, worked in a clinic around 50 miles from Port Au Prince.

He said: 'For me, it was a realisation that there were more problems here than an earthquake.

'There were all sorts of patients, people with chronic diseases like HIV and malaria, and there were people who had been injured from the earthquake who had their treatment and were recovering. We were there to rebuild and help them get a roof over their heads.

'It's rewarding but it felt like what I was doing was a very small contribution to what needed to be done.

'But being able to help out and treat the patients was a great experience.'

On board Largs Bay, which left for Haiti in February, included members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Logistic Corps.

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