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Damaged Haiti Seaport Reopens for Aid Deliveries

VOA News 21 January 2010

The U.S. military says it has reopened the heavily-damaged seaport in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, to help improve the flow of aid to victims of last week's earthquake.

The Commander of the U.S. Southern Command, General Douglas Fraser, said a U.S. landing craft will enable 150 containers to move through the port Thursday. He said the capacity will grow to at least 250 containers a day Friday when a commercial vessel arrives.

Debris around the port, wrecked roads and congestion at the damaged main airport in the capital have made delivering relief to Haitians difficult.

General Fraser said more than 1,400 flights are on a wait list to land in to Port-au-Prince. He said officials have opened another airport in the Haitian city of Jacmel and two airports in the Dominican Republic to help, but road travel from the sites remains difficult.

Aid workers on the ground in Haiti say they are making progress getting food and water to survivors, but the death toll could increase because of untreated injuries and disease. Now nine days after the quake, they are shifting their focus from search and rescue operations to relief.

The earthquake killed an estimated 200,000 people and affected three million - about a third of Haiti's population.

Despite isolated reports of looting and violence, General Fraser said the security situation in Haiti is calm.

More than 12,000 U.S. troops are part of the international effort to provide supplies, medical treatment and security.

Survivors have been living outside in overcrowded camps with little or no sanitation.

Makeshift hospitals are struggling to treat thousands of injured. The aid group Doctors Without Borders is reporting waits of up to 12 days at some clinics. It says untreated wounds have caused some patients to die of infection.

The U.S. Navy hospital ship, USNS Comfort, which reached Haiti early Wednesday is also helping treat survivors.

On Wednesday, rescuers pulled at least two children from the rubble - still alive after being trapped for more than a week. International teams have rescued more than 120 people since beginning their search.

Efforts are also underway to collect the dead and bury them in mass graves.

The head of the United Nations World Food Program is scheduled to arrive in Haiti Thursday for a two-day visit to assess the situation.

U.N. workers and other foreigners were among those affected by the quake. The U.N. said Thursday it had confirmed 61 of its staff members dead and 179 missing. The figures are a significant increase from Wednesday, indicating progress in the recovery, identification and notification process.

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