French Warship Arrives Off Haiti With Aid

By Dialogo
January 26, 2010

A French amphibious assault ship equipped with two landing craft, four helicopters and onboard operating rooms arrived off Haiti on Sunday and began to offload humanitarian aid. A pair of landing craft launched from the Siroco came ashore at Port-au-Prince's main harbor and began to unload trucks and supplies in the earthquake-devastated capital. The freight was to be trucked to the airport where it will be divided among the various aid agencies working to save victims of the January 12 quake. French Ambassador Didier le Bret and the Haitian First Lady Elizabeth Preval flew by helicopter to visit the warship after it dropped anchor in the bay. "I wanted to take the opportunity to ask the ambassador to pass on the thanks of the president and the people of Haiti for the spontaneous generosity of France," she told reporters after her visit. The crew of Siroco, a 12,000-tonne, 168 meter-long Foudre-class warship, will spend four days offloading 2,000 tonnes of aid and equipment for rescue teams, including mechanical diggers to clear the rubble of thousands of ruined homes. The ship itself is too large to be berthed at Port-au-Prince's damaged harbor, so it will remain around 10 kilometers (six miles) from shore and supply French units on the ground by helicopter and landing craft. The Siroco's skipper, Commander Damien Lorge, said that from Monday the ship will be able to act as a floating hospital for critical surgical cases. "We'll take patients on board who need surgery," the ship's chief medical officer Evelyne Lambert told AFP. "We're counting on performing five to 10 operations a day," said Jean Lyprendi, one of the 21 medical team members aboard the Siroco. On January 12, Haiti was hit by a catastrophic earthquake that left more than 150,000 people dead and another million struggling to survive in makeshift camps dotted around the capital and surrounding region. An international military coalition, dominated by the United States, has swung into action to assist the United Nations-coordinated relief effort.