WASHINGTON - With more than 1,400 planes still waiting to bring aid to Haiti, the commander of U.S. forces in the region said yesterday that officials have opened a third alternate airport to hasten the movement of relief supplies for earthquake victims.
About 120 to 140 flights a day are now able to land at the country's single airport in Port-au-Prince, which was damaged in last week's earthquake, Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of the U.S. Southern Command, told a Pentagon news conference. Still, he said, officials have a waiting list of more than 1,400 planes seeking to get into the country as well as a backup of vessels waiting to unload at the damaged port.
Some aid flights also started landing earlier this week at Jacmel, Haiti, and the San Isidro airport in Santo Domingo; and now a third alternate airport has been opened at Barahona, a closer location over the border in the Dominican Republic, he said by videoconference from Haiti.
With the arrival of a Navy landing craft Wednesday, officials expected to be able to start moving 150 shipping containers each day through the damaged port facility - and eventually accept 800 containers a day.
Fraser said he asked for the 2,000 extra Marines now on their way because the military has been getting more requests for troops who can escort the humanitarian assistance to various areas.
Despite isolated incidents of looting and violence, the overall security situation remains calm, Fraser said.
Separately, Gen. David Petraeus, who served with U.S. forces in Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy in 1995, told an audience at Georgetown University Law School that the United States should be cautious about getting so deeply involved in the rebuilding of Haiti that it would be found hard to disengage.