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Haiti quake: Aid workers' diaries Friday 15 January

Supplies carried out of plane
Supplies arrive in Port-au-Prince. Photo: Tony Cece

Rescue teams and supplies are slowly starting to get to some people in Haiti's capital.

British aid workers are among those involved with helping victims of Tuesday's earthquake. The following people are sharing their diaries with us:

Emerson Tan, MapAction
David Darg, Operation Blessing
Carwyn Hill, Haiti Hospital Appeal
Martin Harrison, HCJB Global Hands
Stuart Coles, Plan International

STUART COLES

Communication in every sense is proving to be the essential issue in Haiti.

While tens of thousands of people await help - trapped, injured, dying - speed is the issue.

Our flight is packed with aid teams from across the globe; doctors, technicians, firemen, communications specialists, from France, Germany, the UK and quake-prone countries like Mexico, Italy, Turkey.

All ready and desperate to get to Port-au-Prince and help. They are given rounds of applause from the crew and tourists on the flight as we touch down.

But their job is anything but easy.

Cancelled flights, the levelling of UN and other organisations and infrastructure has created a massive barrier through which this vital pipeline of aid must flow.

Frustration can easily mount on all sides faced with such difficulties.

I spend the flight talking to a German surgeon who expresses near anger at the 'disaster waiting to happen' that is Port-au-Prince building regulations and the house of cards that came down upon its inhabitants.

He is a Handel-loving, chess fanatic - just the kind of calm presence you need in these kind of situations, but he, like all, doesn't know how and when he will reach the target zone.

We discuss children. I explain Plan's need to reach these most vulnerable sections quickly and keep them protected.

We wait among teams of Italian sniffer dog teams, literally straining at the leash to get going. Our Plan colleagues in the Dominican Republic will now set off to join the growing convoy that is reportedly queuing up at the border.

Meanwhile our staff in Haiti are working flat-out, reaching the most in need. Pushing aside their own traumas and losses, pain and fear, to do their professional best.

Plan has a 30-year respected history in Haiti - but it will need much more help, money and resources in this most desperate of hours.

EMERSON TAN

AFTERNOON:

We're in and it's very busy. Some order is coming to the rescue operations. Lots of people are still trapped. All the teams are deployed often minutes after unloading their kit, racing against time in the heat. Could do with some cool weather here.

MORNING:

Unable to land at Port-au-Prince due to overcrowding. Circled for 15 minutes before fuel forced us to head back to the Dominican Republic.

All air ops are suspended until they can turn stuff on the ground around.

We're putting pressure on the US who are running stuff on the ground. Dog teams (who need to be in first) are very annoyed.

DAVID DARG

I'm in the Dominican Republic and exhausted after another night of travel and little sleep.

Aid workers and news crews have been pouring in from all over the world and the airport has been a mad house of teams trying to fly into Port-au-Prince as soon as they can.

Port-au-Prince airport. Photo: Eric Lotz
Hundreds of planes are trying to get to Port-au-Prince. Picture: Eric Lotz

I was hoping to be in Haiti by now, but flights were suspended this afternoon because of congestion at Port-au-Prince airport. There are hundreds of planes trying to get into the Haitian capital, but the temporary air traffic control system just hasn't been able to keep up.

Apparently there are men with clipboards keeping track of the planes circling the airport and men on quad bikes guiding the aircraft into the limited parking space once they land.

One light aircraft pilot I spoke to in Santo Domingo had to call in an emergency landing this morning after circling Port-au-Prince for 45 minutes and running short of fuel.

Fortunately, I have been able to secure a seat with one colleague on a four-seat Cessna leaving at 6am. Many television crews and aid workers have been refused passage because they had too much equipment or luggage, and many are having to make the difficult decision of whether or not to split up and go in smaller groups.

My colleague, Eric Lotz, has been at Port-au-Prince airport all day working to offer Operation Blessing logistical support in the transport of relief goods and rescue teams.

We have teamed up with a search and rescue team from Spain and will be transporting them deep into the quake zone and back again tomorrow evening. They have arrived with four specially trained sniffer dogs and will spend the whole day looking for survivors amongst the sea of rubble that is now Port-au-Prince.

Sniffer dog from the Spanish team. Photo: Eric Lotz
The Spanish team has brought specially trained sniffer dogs

In desperation, many aid groups and media teams are choosing to hire drivers and travel overland to Port-au-Prince from the Dominican Republic. Two photographers I spoke to this evening are leaving at 2am and driving through the night, a move that many would consider extremely dangerous at the best of times.

I have been hearing reports of a sea of Haitians at the Dominican Republic border desperate to get across for medical treatment.

I'm relieved to be on a flight in the morning and now off to try to catch a few hours' sleep in anticipation of some extremely long hours tomorrow.



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