WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–Jan. 19, 2010 – As some 200 daily flights transit through the congested and sole functioning Haitian airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince, the U.S. military is looking to open a second runway in the city of Jacmel within a day.
The airfield will receive C-130 deliveries that initially will support Canadian humanitarian assistance efforts centered in the southern city about 30 miles southeast of the Haitian capital, a military official said.
“The first [additional] runway in Haiti proper will go into operation in the vicinity of Jacmel within the next 24 hours,” Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, the second in command of U.S. operations in Haiti, told Pentagon reporters today.
Reports of bottlenecking at Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince have emerged as the hub’s capacity has grown from an average of 13 commercial aircraft arrivals daily before a magnitude 7 earthquake struck Jan. 12 to the present level of more than 200 flights.
As international support continues to flow into Haiti amid what one official has called one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas, the U.S. military has looked outside the capital for areas to receive the additional provisions, equipment and personnel.
“We are obviously very conscious of the need to have multiple ports of entry,” said Allyn, adding that the U.S. military assessed the site at Jacmel yesterday during a helicopter delivery of food and supplies to the area.
In addition to the strip in Jacmel, officials hope to improve logistics from San Isidro in the neighboring Dominican Republic to affected areas in Haiti.
Original estimates by the Red Cross were that upwards of 50,000 people were killed in the quake, with 3 million Haitians affected, but other reports elevated the estimated death count at 100,000 to 200,000.
The top priority now is to distribute supplies that are building on the ground as they continue being delivered by the Defense Department and international contributors, the general said. A C-17 Globemaster III transport jet flew from Pope Air Force Base, N.C., yesterday and airdropped nearly 15,000 meals and more than 15,000 liters of water to people in northeastern Port-au-Prince.
“This aerial delivery augments our ongoing relief efforts and continues to extend our reach to the stricken,” said Allyn, adding that the United States has delivered more than 400,000 bottles of water and 300,000 rations to the people of Haiti in the past six days.
About half of the 7,000 U.S. troops in Haiti — 2,000 on the ground and more than 5,000 afloat off the Haitian coast — are directly involved in delivering humanitarian assistance ashore, he said. The number of U.S. forces operating in and around Haiti is expected to rise to more than 10,000 by the end of the day, a defense official said.