The international community is mobilizing aid to Haiti after Tuesday's massive earthquake. But U.S. officials say the capital's seaport and airport sustained damage, a factor that could delay humanitarian efforts.
U.S. Southern Command General Douglas Fraser says there are concerns about the international airport in Port-au-Prince. "The word we are getting is that the airport is functional, but the tower and the capability to operate there are limited. And so we are pushing capability there now to be able to operate and secure that airport," he said.
Fraser told reporters in Washington Wednesday that his deputy commander happened to be in Haiti during the earthquake. He told the general that while the airport's runway is useable, the tower lacked communications capability and that the passenger terminal was damaged.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking to reporters in Hawaii on Wednesday, said a U.S. military team is on the ground to establish an air traffic control system. "There were some near misses this morning with journalists and others trying to get into Haiti, with no option for air traffic control other than visual. And obviously, we cannot or other nations cannot bring in the kind of heavy lift planes that are needed," he said.
General Fraser emphasized that there is only one airfield in Port-au-Prince, with one runway and limited ramp space, so coastal access to the capital could be key to assistance efforts. "We are also taking an assessment of the port, because of the likelihood the port of Port-au-Prince will be more important in being able to move a volume of goods through," he said.
U.S. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley says the U.S. Coast Guard found "substantial damage" to the port's piers, which will limit the ability to dock ships in the coming days.
A U.S. aircraft carrier Carl Vincent is headed to Haiti. General Fraser says it will be outfitted with additional helicopters and serve as a staging base to deliver equipment and relief supplies to those devastated by the quake.
In addition to U.S. assistance efforts, the State Department says the number of countries that have offered help to Haiti continues to grow. Spokesman Crowley says the list includes Haiti's neighbor, the Dominican Republic, as well as Nicaragua, Brazil, Guyana, Cuba, Morocco, France and Britain.