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Volunteers from South Sudan back in Alaska

By Alexis Fernandez 9:10 PM December 27, 2013

The group has just finished drilling several wells when violence erupted

ANCHORAGE - As the violence continues in South Sudan, thousands of volunteers who were evacuated as a safety precaution are headed to their respective homes, including one group of volunteers from Alaska.

When violence erupted in Juba — the country’s capital — nearly two weeks ago, Robert Crotty was part of the Alaska Sudan Medical Project helping in the village of Old Fangak.

The group had just finished drilling several wells when the day was disrupted.

“We were getting ready to go down river to visit villages about an hour away because they asked us to drill them some wells — we had some more time, when all hell broke loose,” Crotty said.

In Juba, about 300 miles south of the village, heavy gunfire began erupting between the Dinka and Nuer tribes.

Violence quickly spread to other villages, the closest to them was about 100 miles away.

“We’ve never felt like we were in harms way — we had good communication with the outside world,” Crotty said.

After several days, project leaders decided it was time to go.

“Made the decision, rightfully so, that it was important to pull us out before we were in harms way, which I’m very appreciative of,” he said.

But it wasn’t that easy. With the main airport in Juba closed, the group had to charter a plane from Uganda to bypass Juba. About eight hours later, they made it safely to Kenya, where a new group trying to get in was standing by.

Crotty said in the five years he’s been with ASMP, they’ve never had to leave.

“This is the first time for me, there’s been cattle raids and such where people went and sat at the airstrip just in case … but this is the first time of an evacuation of employees,” Crotty said.

He hopes the violence ends soon so they and thousands of other volunteers can get back to helping the South Sudanese people.

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