Logistics and transportation operators trying to bring badly needed aid to Haiti are trying to overcome the enormous devastation to infrastructure from the earthquake that has devastated the nation, killing untold thousands of people.
While relief organizations were pulling together food, medicine and other supplies, news reports said air transport would be the only direct way into the capital of Port-au-Prince, where survivors have been left without shelter and face the onset of disease without help.
But news reports depicted a capital city crushed by the earthquake and its aftershocks, with little evidence of coordinated relief efforts or govenrment help, complicating efforts to distribute desperately needed food, water and medicine.
The first oceangoing vessel on the scene, a Coast Guard cutter from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, reported Wednesday the port at Haiti’s capital had been badly damaged and that many workers had been killed, leaving the site all but unusable.
Regional operator Seaboard Marine said the port’s cranes and piers had been severely damaged.
Reports said the capital’s main airport still had power and lights, however, allowing emergency flights to get to the country. Only a handful of flights arrived by nightfall Wedneseday, however, and air traffic control systems at the airport did not appeear to be working.
Aid from around the globe will have to use the airport or transport goods to the neighboring Dominican Republic, where they will be driven across the border.
The goods included aid coordinated by the International Red Cross under what the organzation called “a massive international aid operation.”
The Red Cross said logistics would be central to the air effort. Logistics companies established emergency relief networks after the tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2004 and those groups were moving Wednesday to set plans in motion.
“In the wake of Tuesday’s tragic earthquake in Haiti, we are working to identify relief needs together with major humanitarian relief agencies, including the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the American Red Cross,” said the American Logistics Aid Network, a group of logistics companies set up to coordinate relief efforts.
Commercial operators canceled whatever services they had to Haiti as they tried to move equipment and people to the island for rescue and relief.
Crowley Maritime, which regularly serves Haiti with its liner services, said it was “evaluating how it can best deploy its wide variety of specialized marine assets to deliver humanitarian cargo and assistance to the disaster relief.”
"We are deeply concerned for our colleagues as well as all Haitian citizens affected by this disaster," said Tucker Gilliam, Crowley’s general manager for Dominican Republic/Haiti services.
The crew of the hospital ship the USNS Comfort, meantime, has been preparing to leave from its base in Baltimore, five-day’s sailing distance from Haiti.