HMCS Athabaskan returns home after Haiti mission
Published Wednesday, March 17, 2010 6:17PM EDT
The second of the two Canadian Navy ships deployed to Haiti in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, arrived back in Halifax Wednesday morning.
The destroyer HMCS Athabaskan was deployed to Haiti along with the frigate HMCS Halifax in January to provide light engineering help, humanitarian aid and medical assistance following the earthquake that killed about 200,000 people.
The ships left port after an unprecedented effort to prepare the crew and load supplies in just a few days -- arriving in Haiti just seven days after the quake struck.
The 225 crew members on the HMCS Halifax, which returned home on March 2 after a six week deployment, was focusing efforts in Jacmel, Haiti.
HMCS Athabaskan, with a crew of 240, was working mostly in Leogane.
Capt. Art McDonald, who was overseeing Canada's naval effort in Haiti, said the crew of the Athabaskan is returning home "having made some friends and having done a lot of good, and we come back better Canadians for it."
He said the the mission unfolded in three phases. The first seven to 10 days was spend delivering medical aid. After that, the crew focused on delivering clean water, then moved on to joint projects with the United Nations and non-governmental organizations to deliver food and aid.
"We worked together with the Haitians and I think that was something they greatly respected, and it made the work on both sides a little bit easier," McDonald told CTV News Channel Wednesday from Halifax.
Canadian troops are currently in the process of withdrawing from the nation.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who recently returned from visiting the Canadian Forces in Haiti, said the work is now being handed over to Haitian organizations and international non-governmental organizations.
The withdrawal will be complete by next month, though those returning home will likely never forget the devastation they saw in the aftermath of the deadly quake, MacKay said.