Cuba denies fault in loss of Haiti-bound aid barge

AP News
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Posted: Apr 21, 2011 3:20 PM
Cuba denies fault in loss of Haiti-bound aid barge

Cuba's Transportation Ministry on Thursday denied claims by a U.S. housing company that the island nation is to blame for the loss of a barge carrying humanitarian aid to Haiti.

A Cuban tugboat received a distress call from the "Muheet" just before midnight Nov. 30, and responded promptly, the ministry said in a statement.

It says the tug began towing the ship and its two barges, but high seas prompted both captains to decide to head for port with the ship and return later for the barges.

One was deemed a total loss while the other was salvaged, the statement said. It added that an inspection found expired permits and insufficient anchor capability.

Georgia-based Harbor Homes LLC has claimed a line broke during the tow, causing one barge to sink. The company has sued its insurer for $1.3 million.

The company also claimed that Cuba refused a request from the U.S. Coast Guard to enter Cuban waters and attempt a rescue. The Coast Guard has said it never sought to enter Cuban waters.

Cuba said it has been in constant contact with the Coast Guard and the U.S. government about the matter. It said the salvaged goods are being stored in a customs warehouse.

Cuba has had humanitarian ties to Haiti for years. Well before doctors from around the world rushed to help Haiti after a massive 2010 earthquake, Cuba lent hundreds of doctors to provide medical services throughout the impoverished country.