Haiti Airport The Beachhead And Bottleneck For Aid

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January 14, United States Air Force Special Tactics personnel were on the ground controlling airport operations at Toussaint L'Ouverture International, Haiti, but the ramp area was already saturated with 44 aircraft, forcing a temporary closure. The airport operates a control tower, two fuel trucks and one 9,974-foot runway. The control tower was rendered useless by the January 12 earthquake. Initial aid flights arrived using the UNICOM frequency to organize themselves, then by a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter off the coast. But two days later, the airspace was closed, turning away 11 aircraft that had been waiting for other flights to depart so they could land. Among those turned away was a C-130 from the 15th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla.. With ground damage hindering the expedient dispersion of supplies, and physical space preventing further arrivals, departures were at the same time beginning to be challenged by a dwindling fuel supply. The American aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson had by Thursday been dispatched to the region, primarily looking at providing increased helicopter capacity in the afflicted area.

The January 12 earthquake that struck near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, leveled much of of the capital city and crippled the country's infrastructure, including water pipelines. With the Haitian airport operating at capacity, the USS Carl Vinson will be able to provide helicopters for aid distribution and emergency air lift operations, including moving construction equipment to areas unreachable by now destroyed roads. First estimates from the American Red Cross listed the potential dead tally at 45,000-50,000.