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On the Scene: Relief Operations at Haiti's Quake-Damaged Presidential Palace

  • David Dyar

US Navy helicopter lands next to US troops in front of heavily damaged presidential palace in Port-au-Prince 19 Jan 2010

US Navy helicopter lands next to US troops in front of heavily damaged presidential palace in Port-au-Prince 19 Jan 2010

The Haitian president's front yard is being used as a landing zone for U.S. military helicopters that are ferrying Haitian earthquake victims to three U.S. military vessels for treatment. Suzanne Presto flew in a Navy Seahawk Thursday from aboard one of those vessels, the U.S. Navy Hospital ship Comfort. This is what she saw in the minutes after landing.

We took a helicopter in from aboard the USNS Comfort. Since we got here, the helicopters have been landing non-stop. This is one of the few moments that it has actually been quiet enough for me to actually voice anything. People load up people wearing street clothes on stretchers, some of them covered in sheets, some of them with IV bags alongside them on the stretcher.

Flying in, it's apparent that the presidential palace ... the top floor has basically crashed in and the sides are pretty scraped up and worn away. You can see the concrete. We're in the backyard now, where the peacocks and the geese are acting as peacocks and geese would.

There are people all along the front of the complex. There are white cinderblock walls that people are standing on, and then peering through the green wrought-iron fences. Some of them who are standing on the ground are actually pressing their faces through the legs of other people - whether it's to see what's going on here in the front yard with all the helicopters coming and going or whether it's to have someone who is in the front yard see them - it's difficult to know.

Flying in over Port-au-Prince, we also flew over the pier that collapsed Wednesday morning, in what was a 6.0 or 6.1 earthquake. The tail end of a cargo truck is dipping in to the water.

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