In the furious battle against time and a rampaging Ebola epidemic, the gravel crusher joined a long list of enemies.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin A. Holsinger was standing on an acre of neatly cleared dirt, surrounded by coconut trees, bush and bright yellow earth-moving equipment — the construction site for the first of 18 Ebola treatment centers the American military plans to build in Liberia.
Suddenly, around noon on Tuesday, the local contractor announced that the crusher’s engine, needed to smash rocks, had broken. Ergo, no gravel to lay down.
“I’m frustrated,” said Petty Officer Holsinger, a United States Navy Seabee, as Liberian soldiers gazed at him from across the field. “I want to get this done and start helping people.”
Two weeks after President Obama announced that time was running out in the fight to stem the epidemic, the American treatment centers planned here in the center of West Africa’s Ebola crisis are still a long way off.
The beds for the first field hospital, flown in by the military from Kelly Air Force Base near San Antonio, remained in a hangar at Liberia’s main international airport, wrapped in plastic alongside the tents, generators and the medical equipment needed to set up the facility. Military planners say it will probably be another 10 days before even this first 25-bed treatment center is up and running.