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Page last updated at 18:28 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010

First commercial passenger flight lands in Haiti

American Airlines flight arriving in Haiti - 19 February 2010
The resumption of commercial flights would help rebuild Haiti, officials said

The first commercial passenger flight has arrived in Haiti since the devastating earthquake on 12 January that killed more than 200,000 people.

The American Airlines Boeing 737 from Miami, carrying 136 passengers, landed at the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The airport was damaged in the quake but has been kept open with the help of the US military.

The airport has been a vital lifeline for aid to help the 1.2 million people estimated to be homeless in Haiti.

Emotional journey

As the plane taxied to the quake-damaged terminal, the pilots waved a Haitian flag from the cockpit window.

A band played Creole music to welcome the passengers.

"It's good for the reconstruction of Haiti," said American Airlines spokeswoman Martha Pantin.

"We were the last one out and the first one back."

Many of the passengers said they were excited to return to Haiti, but some were emotional, remembering relatives who had died in the earthquake.

"The first destination I want them to take me to is my cousin's grave," said Marie Ange Levasseur, originally from Haiti but now living in Miami.

Makeshift camp in Port-au-Prince, 18 Feb 10

"It's very sad this trip."

A US air force general said the resumption of commercial flights would help Haiti's reconstruction.

"This brings business and commerce back to the nation of Haiti," said Brig Gen Darryl Burke, vice-commander of Air Forces Southern.

An Air France flight is also due to land at the airport later on Friday, as well as other American Airlines flights from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and New York.

The US embassy in Haiti said the resumption of commercial flights meant the US would phase out evacuation flights.

The airport was initially inundated with aid flights in the aftermath of the earthquake, with the sheer volume of traffic creating problems getting relief supplies to survivors.

More than 1.2 million people are estimated to be homeless in Haiti, with some 230,000 killed by the quake.

The United Nations has increased its humanitarian appeal for Haiti to $1.44bn (£929m) - an all-time high.

Officials say there is an urgent need for tents, food and water, as the rainy season nears.

Other priority areas for Haiti include agriculture, health, logistics, nutrition, protection, sanitation and hygiene.



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