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U.S. Airlifts Aid to Haiti to Reach Those Hardest Hit By Earthquakes

U.S. military aircraft are now ferrying food, tarps and other material into southern Haiti amid a shift in the international relief effort to focus on helping people in the areas hardest hit by the recent earthquake to make it through the hurricane season.

Aircraft flying out of the capital, Port-au-Prince, arrived throughout the day Saturday in the mostly rural, mountainous southern peninsula that was the epicenter of the Augist14th earthquake. In Jeremie, people waved and cheered as a Marine Corps unit from North Carolina descended in a tilt-rotor Osprey with pallets of rice, tarps, and other supplies.

Most of the supplies, however, were not destined for Jeremie. They were for distribution to remote mountain communities where landslides destroyed homes and the small plots of the many subsistence farmers in the area, said Patrick Tiné of Haiti Bible Mission, one of several groups coordinating the delivery of aid.

At the request of the Haitian government, getting as much help to such people as fast as possible is now the focus of the $32 million U.S. relief effort, said Tim Callaghan, a disaster response team leader for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

In the immediate aftermath of the magnitude 7.2 earthquake, which killed more than 2,200 people and damaged or destroyed more than 100,000 homes, the focus was on search and rescue.

That was complicated by heavy rain from Tropical Storm Grace as well as earthquake damage to roads and bridges, in an area where the infrastructure was in bad shape to begin with. The threat of gangs, in a country still reeling from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, also made it hard to distribute aid. As a result, many Haitians had grown increasingly impatient with relief efforts.

The U.S. effort is expected to continue at least for several more weeks, though whether it will be enough to get people through the rest of the hurricane season remains to be seen. “People need food, water, tents, tarps,” said Wilkens Sanon of Mission of Hope Foundation, another of the groups working with the U.S. to channel aid to people who need it most.

“It is very, very bad right now,” he said.



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