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Port-au-Prince airport useable but damaged

by Staff Writers
Port-Au-Prince (AFP) Jan 13, 2010
The international airport in Haiti's earthquake-ravaged capital is damaged but useable, authorities said Wednesday as countries line up to fly in relief supplies and rescue teams.

Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told CNN television planes were landing at the airport but added, "I know that there is some problems."

US Air Force General Douglas Fraser, head of US Southern Command, said in Washington that the airport runway had survived the quake but communications were knocked out and the passenger terminal sustained damage.

Fraser's deputy commander who happened to be in Haiti when the earthquake hit had visited the airport, he said.

"He says the runway is functional, but the tower does not have communications capability," Fraser said.

UN peacekeeping operations head Alain Leroy earlier told reporters "the airport is operational" and that aid would start flowing soon.

The use of the airport closest to hard-hit Port-au-Prince would be crucial for swiftly bringing in help that is desperately needed to rescue people trapped under rubble and attend to casualties of the disaster.

Bellerive said the death toll could rise to over 100,000 as schools, government buildings, luxury hotels and shantytowns collapsed from the force of Tuesday's 7.0 magnitude quake.

A team of US Air Force experts was due to arrive later on Wednesday to help restore air traffic control and communications at the airport, Fraser said.

"We have a group going in to make sure we can gain and secure the air field and operate from it" as it is expected to be a hub for relief efforts, the general said.

Albert Ramdin, assistant secretary general of the Washington-based Organization of American States, said Haiti needed field hospitals, water purification units, emergency shelters, telecommunications and help with logistics.

"And also of course, the most basic needs like water and fuel," he added.

But he expressed concerns that problems at the airport could snarl the flow of supplies.

"The tower of the Port-au-Prince international airport collapsed, which could possibly hinder the release of the efforts coming in hours or days," Ramdin told ambassadors from across the Americas.

"The runway seems to be functioning, but there's no electricity, that means landing in the evening or in the night is impossible," he warned.

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