PORT-AU-PRINCE, 17 January 2010 (IRIN)
- Haiti's tiny international airport has been overwhelmed by the international
response to the earthquake disaster, clogging up the emergency effort,
according to aid workers.
"The airport in Port-au-Prince does not have the capacity to handle so many aircraft," Juan Carlos Porcella, the head of the civil aviation authority in neigbouring Dominican Republic told IRIN. "You have planes sitting for hours on the runway. No one wants to take responsibility to unload."
The Haitian and Dominican governments are planning an alternative 130km humanitarian road corridor to deliver relief supplies from the Dominican southern town of Barahona to Port-au-Prince, to be secured by UN peacekeepers.
"The Haitian airport now is overwhelmed," said UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet.
The US government stepped in to help at the overstretched airport on 15 January by taking control and allowing in only humanitarian flights.
While some 180 tons of food aid had arrived by 15 January, getting the supplies out of the airport and into the hands of the needy has been a major hurdle, according to Kim Bolduc, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti.
"You have no idea the state of the roads...The traffic is dense. We may need to change the time of [food] distribution," she said. While main roads are reportedly open, secondary roads are still blocked.
On 16 January the World Food Programme provided an estimated 39,000 people with high energy biscuits, water purification tablets and water containers. It could reach only 9,000 on 14 January.
The government estimates three million people lived in the area hit by the 12 January earthquake.
When asked about criticisms that relief has been slow to get to the people, the UN's Bolduc replied: "Before the earthquake, Haiti was already a fragile state, and now almost everything has stopped [working]. The government is doing its best."
Local media reported that 27 out of 30 senators died in the quake, and half of the national police force has not been located, along with their equipment.