Military to use more runways for Haiti aid effort
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – American military officials are pressing ahead with a new infusion of troops and changing tactics to break a logjam blocking critical supplies from reaching desperate Haitian earthquake refugees.
Some 800 Marines moved ashore Tuesday in Haiti, ferrying supplies on helicopters and Humvees as the U.S. military force there swelled to as many as 11,000.
“We’re confident that the capabilities that are needed by the government of Haiti will be provided and can be provided and sustained for as long as its needed,” said Army Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, the deputy commander for military operations in Haiti.
During the weekend, U.S. officials also began dropping food and water by air – in some cases kicking small rations off the back of helicopters direcly into heavily populated areas.
Military officials had initially ruled out such airdrops because of fear it would incite riots. But with time running out and limitations on how quickly troops could reach certain areas, some airdrops were allowed, officials said Tuesday.
The military has separately dropped some 15,000 liters of water and 14,500 meals into a large field near the Port-au-Prince airport that is controlled by troops. The troops have distributed those rations to the population, officials said.
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune, N.C., includes some 2,200 Marines with 800 of them expected to be moving ashore Tuesday west of Port-au-Prince.
The Marine unit joins the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., which began arriving last week along with several Navy ships and Coast Guard cutters.
Military officials said troops and supplies were arriving as fast as possible, despite daunting logistical hurdles.
Allyn said the military has delivered more than 400,000 bottles of water and 300,000 food rations in the past six days.
The chaotic airport was taken over by U.S. officials on Friday and is now accommodating some 120 flights a day.
Allyn said a runway in the town of Jacmel will open for C-130 flights in 24 hours. Another field in the neighboring country of the Dominican Republic will also be used, though the timing remains uncertain.
Allyn says officials are working to build up their ability to move more aid into the country despite major damage to ports of entry caused by the quake.