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Seattle University


Wes Lauer is back

Written by Mike Thee
January 15, 2010

Update (Jan. 22, 1:23 p.m.) Wes Lauer safely returned to Seattle on Thursday, Jan. 21 after catching a flight from Cap Haitien, Haiti, to Florida on Jan. 20.  Lauer was accompanied by a group of 12 other Seattleites who had been in Haiti on a related service project.  He writes: "The group had successfully made their way to Cap Haitien on January 19 after traveling overland along the rugged coastline east of Port de Paix.  The 12-hour trip was uneventful with the exception a few bumps and bruises and a flat tire on the Toyota Landcruiser pickup used for the journey. "

Update (Jan. 20, 10:22 a.m.):  Phil Thompson, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, reports that Wes Lauer, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, is expected to fly out of Haiti today and is anticipated to arrive in Seattle tomorrow. Thompson says, "Thankfully, he's flying directly from Cap Haitien to Ft. Lauderdale and avoiding Port-au-Prince altogether."

Wes Lauer, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, was at a computer in Haiti, working on a project for the College of Science and Engineering’s Project Center, when he felt the rumbling. He and everyone else in the building managed to get out before the earthquake delivered its crushing blow. Fortunately Lauer was located in a village outside Port-de-Paix, which roughly 200 miles northwest of Port-au-Prince. This part of Haiti did not experience any damage, he told The Commons in an interview on Jan. 15. Even still, everyone in the Port-de-Paix area “knows someone who was hurt or killed” in the earthquake, he said.

On this day, Lauer was still trying to get a flight out of the country. He was originally scheduled to depart on Jan. 14, but learned that all jet fuel is being diverted to Port-au-Prince; it was unclear when he’d be able to leave.

In recent days, Lauer has observed a couple of pickup trucks carrying 15-20 people in its flatbed with their cargo  

Wes Lauer is near Port-de-Paix, approximately 200 miles northwest of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
strapped to the outside of the vehicle, a first sign of the influx of refugees that are expected to arrive in the area.

As for what brought Lauer to Haiti in the first place, he is working on a project that will help local farmers in this poverty-stricken country be more productive. The area is a leading producer of plantains, but the crops are frequently lost to flooding. Lauer and a team of four students are devising a water diversion system, and on this trip, he was collecting soil samples. He said he now has all the data they need to complete the project.

While he waits to leave Haiti, Lauer has been doing his part to facilitate assistance for victims of the earthquake. At his current location, he has been working with a nonprofit, Crossworld (, which has a compound in Port-au-Prince. With thousands of people at their compound in need food and water, Lauer has been working with Phil Thompson, chair of civil and environmental engineering, to send two water filtration systems to Port-au-Prince. It is familiar work for Thompson and Lauer, who have successfully installed systems like these in other poverty-stricken countries such as Thailand.

Click here  to make a donation to support the water filtration systems being shipped to Haiti and to learn how you can support projects like these in third world countries by participating in a silent, stay-at-home auction for SU Engineers Without Borders.