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U.S., Haiti working to resume medical airlifts

WASHINGTON - United States authorities are working with Haiti's government to resume civilian flights at the Port-au-Prince airport after the U.S. military halted flights carrying earthquake victims to America because of an apparent cost dispute.

The evacuations were temporarily suspended Wednesday, said Capt. Kevin Aandahl, spokesman for U.S. Transportation Command. The flights were halted a day after Florida Gov. Charlie Crist asked the federal government to help pay for care.

Yesterday, Dr. Barth Green, a University of Miami doctor involved in the relief effort in Port-au-Prince, warned some injured patients faced imminent death if the flights didn't resume enabling his patients to get to better hospitals.

"We have 100 critically ill patients who will die in the next day or two if we don't medevac them," said Green, chairman of the University of Miami's Global Institute for Community Health and Development.

Late yesterday, a U.S. Army official said some airlines and cargo companies could be back within weeks. He did not give a specific date for the resumption of normal flight activity.

Col. Rick Kaiser said that meant military flights would have to be diverted to another airport and that officials were considering a plan to use the airport in the nearby coastal town of Jacmel.

Meanwhile, relief officials are scrambling to confront a sanitation crisis that could spread malaria, cholera and other deadly diseases throughout the chaotic camps packed with hundreds of thousands of Haitian earthquake survivors.

Shortages of food, clean water, adequate shelter and latrines are creating a potential spawning ground for epidemics in a country with an estimated 1 million people made homeless by the Jan. 12 quake.

Yesterday, a single portable toilet served about 2,000 people in a sprawling camp across a street from the collapsed National Palace, forcing most to use a gutter that runs next to an area where vendors cook food and mothers struggle to bathe their children.

"We wash the vegetables first from water brought in by trucks, but a lot of times the water isn't clean," said Marie Marthe, 45, cooking a large pot of collard greens, carrots and goat as flies gathered on her daughter's diaper. "We don't have any choice."

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