Pride of Italian Navy helping in Haiti
Italy’s newest aircraft carrier the Cavour, launched in 2004 but not fully operational until last year, arrived in Haitian waters on 1st February. It forms part of “Operation White Crane”, Italy’s relief effort in Haiti.
At first the ship could not dock at Port-au-Prince because of earthquake damage there so the land element of its personnel disembarked, with equipment, in the Dominican Republic and trekked overland to Haiti.
When Italian military and medical personnel first arrived in Haiti on 14th January, they decided that a carrier was needed and the Cavour, the new flagship of the Italian Navy, set sail from Muggiano, near La Spezia, on 19th January. On the way it picked up a Brazilian military and medical team.
The Cavour was carrying 200 soldiers, its own crew of 540 personnel, 6 naval helicopters, cranes, bulldozers and other specialised equipment for earthquake work. Most importantly for the Haitians, the ship has two state of the art operating theatres and was carrying a field hospital, 135,000 tons of supplies from the World Food Programme and 77 tons of supplies from the Italian Red Cross.
The carrier is also equipped with a hyperbaric chamber, which is similar to the pressurised cabin that divers use. The chamber has already been used to treat patients with wounds that have become infected in the dusty and unhygienic conditions onshore and the Captain, Gianluigi Reversi, told Reuters yesterday that as a consequence of the treatment, several of the patients have been spared amputation procedures.
The carrier’s personnel have also set up onshore hospitals and helped in clearing and rebuilding work. They are working alongside personnel from the US carrier, Comfort.
Next week the Cavour will offer operations to Haitian children with facial deformities as part of Operation Smile. There is already a baby on board as the ship’s medical personnel are treating the three-month-old girl’s mother. Captain Reversi says his men are happy to feel that they are really helping people in need.
Not everyone is pleased about the ship’s deployment to Haiti, however, for she costs around 200, 000 euros [$271, 895 or £175,546] per day to operate.
Do you think the Italian government was right to send the Cavour to Haiti?