ABOARD THE USS CARTER HALL, Haiti, Feb 24 (Reuters) – Haiti’s main seaport at Port-au-Prince has managed to handle container traffic at a level higher than before the Jan. 12 earthquake, and full repairs to damage should be completed in April, a senior U.S. military officer said on Wednesday.
The Caribbean country’s main maritime terminal for import and export shipments was badly damaged in last month’s quake, especially its south pier, initially blocking off a key entry point for urgently needed humanitarian supplies and imports.
Divers from the U.S. Navy and other countries have been working for weeks on repairs to clear debris and wreckage from blocked channels and berths, and contractors brought in floating piers to help unload containers.
"We’ve had several days where we’ve delivered 600 containers in a single day, so their capacity is ahead of where they were before the earthquake," said Major General Daniel Allyn, deputy commander of the U.S. military Joint Task Force participating in the international relief effort in Haiti.
This compared to the 200-250 containers the port was handling a month ago, following the disaster.
Repairing the main seaport was seen as a critical step to bring in sufficient volumes of humanitarian supplies and equipment needed to help the victims of the quake, which may have killed up to 300,000 people, according to the Haitian government. More than a million people were left homeless and in need of assistance.
"The really good news story is that the Haitians are running port operations at Port-au-Prince, from the ship’s pilotage to the offloading of the ships," Allyn told Reuters.
He said the majority of incoming port traffic in the last week had been commercial cargo, while humanitarian aid cargo had tapered off from previous levels. Off Port-au-Prince, both warships and commercial container ships could be seen.
"I think that’s a sign that we’re past the immediate emergency response window and we’re sort of in that phase in between, when the reconstruction cargo starts coming ashore in large numbers," the U.S. general said.
He expected repairs on the south pier, the port’s primary pier before the quake, to be completed about April 10.
Allyn was speaking aboard the USS Carter Hall, a U.S. amphibious warship which played a key role in putting ashore U.S. Marines and heavy earth-moving equipment west of Port-au-Prince in the days following the Jan. 12 earthquake.
After President Barack Obama mobilized U.S. armed forces to assist the Haiti relief effort, U.S. military personnel have carried out a wide variety of roles, ranging from protecting aid distribution and patrolling dangerous slums, to providing medical services and assisting with the complex planning and logistics of the humanitarian operation.
From a peak at one point of about 22,000 U.S. military personnel involved in the Haiti operation, Allyn said the U.S. presence was being adjusted according to the needs of the Haitian government and its relief partners.
"Our footprint is down in the 6,000 range ashore and about 6,000 afloat and obviously we’ll continue to adjust that as the mission requires as we go forward," he said.
"We will remain committed as long as we are needed, as the president of the United States has announced," he added.
The USS Carter Hall, stationed off the coast near Petit Goave and Grand Goave, was pulling back and reloading heavy equipment and other vehicles which had been used to clear debris and assist survivors in Haiti’s western region. (Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Shifting debris and twisted metal by hand, Haitian workers backed by Japanese U.N. military engineers on Monday rescued remaining valuable paintings and sculptures from the collapsed rubble of one of Haiti’s most notable art museums.
The workers and U.N. troops were trying to salvage what they could of Haiti’s rich artistic heritage, ravaged by the January 12 earthquake that may have killed up to 300,000 people, according to the country’s president.
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – American Airlines on Friday flew the first commercial passenger flight into Haiti since the January 12 earthquake, reopening major commercial airline links with the quake-hit Caribbean country.
Flight AA 377 from Miami, a Boeing 737 carrying 136 passengers, touched down at Toussaint L’Ouverture airport in Port-au-Prince and taxied up to the terminal, which was damaged in the quake but has been operating with the help of U.S. military engineers and air force controllers.
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Providing shelter for hundreds of thousands of homeless earthquake victims in Haiti jumped to the top of the country’s relief priorities on Thursday after heavy rain turned makeshift survivors’ camps into muddy quagmires.
Several hours of overnight rain, much of it torrential, battered the thousands of crude cloth tents and huts in the quake-shattered capital Port-au-Prince, turning the ground between them to mud and soaking their occupants.
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Before Haiti’s January 12 earthquake, painter Louis Saurel was depicting the colorful scenes of rural life that many tourists prized as souvenirs of their visit to the poor Caribbean country.
Now he’s applying his artistic talents to capturing the horrific moment when the deadliest disaster in his country’s history turned his life — and those of hundreds of thousands of his compatriots — upside down.
PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – The cost of rebuilding impoverished Haiti after last month’s catastrophic earthquake could reach nearly $14 billion, making it proportionately the most destructive natural disaster in modern times, economists at the Inter-American Development Bank said on Tuesday.
Their study, which takes into account the magnitude of the January 12 disaster, the number of fatalities and Haiti’s population and per capita GDP, raises previous damage estimates from the quake to between $8 billion and $14 billion.
MIAMI (Reuters) – U.S. federal agents have arrested a Taiwan passport holder on charges of illegally exporting commodities for Iran’s missile program in violation of U.S. sanctions, authorities in south Florida said on Thursday.
Yi-Lan Chen, 40, also known as Kevin Chen, was arrested on Wednesday in the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam on a warrant from the Southern District of Florida, the district’s U.S. attorney said.
MIAMI, Jan 12 (Reuters) – Central Florida citrus growers,
already reeling from an unusually long freeze, reported more
overnight ice damage to their orange fruit and groves on
Tuesday, which they feared could also hurt the 2010/11 crop.
Citrus growers in the Sunshine State, which produces more
than 75 percent of the U.S. orange crop and accounts for about
40 percent of the world’s orange juice supply, have been hit by
more than a week of record low overnight temperatures caused by
blasts of arctic air charging far south.
MIAMI, Jan 11 (Reuters) – Freezing temperatures mauled
Florida’s citrus groves overnight, inflicting significant
damage on the orange crop, producers said on Monday, although
it could take weeks to see if there was long-term tree loss.
“I would say there was considerable fruit, twig and leaf
damage,” said Andrew Meadows, spokesman for the state’s main
growers group Florida Citrus Mutual, referring to reports from
the worst-hit areas.
MIAMI (Reuters) – Florida’s citrus crop again escaped widespread destruction from an overnight freeze, but some damage was reported to fruit, especially in northern growing areas, the main producers group said on Sunday.
Growers in the Sunshine State, which produces more than three-quarters of the U.S. orange crop and accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s orange juice supply, were preparing to endure another night of freezing weather on Sunday.