US vilified at Haiti airport
Mon, Jan 18, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE- The United States had promised one of its biggest relief efforts, but is quickly emerging as a villain to some in quake-struck Haiti.

Anger centred on the main airport, now controlled by the US, where it was alleged that the Americans were most concerned about evacuating US citizens, even as other planes were turned away.

"Let's take over the runway," shouted one man.

"We need to send a message to Obama," cried another, referring to US President Barack Obama.

The US forces faced anger over continued disarray at the overwhelmed one-runway site.

"The Haitians haven't been notified about the arrival of planes. And when they do land, there's no one to take charge and a large amount of goods is arriving without coordination," said Haitian government official Michel Chancy.

Meanwhile, dozens of French citizens and Haitian- French nationals seeking to be evacuated to Guadeloupe last Saturday saw their plane waved off.

AMERICANS FIRST? Americans leaving Haiti on a US Air Force plane last Saturday. Critics say the US has put the evacuation of its citizens above those from other countries.

"They're repatriating Americans and no one else," said Mr Charles Misteder, 50.

The US embassy denied that it was putting the evacuation of the roughly 40,000-odd Americans in Haiti first.

But the disorder even caused diplomatic ripples, with French Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet saying that he had lodged a complaint with the US after a French plane carrying a field hospital was turned away.

However, a French Foreign Ministry spokesman later backpedalled.

US ambassador Kenneth Merten said: "We're working in coordination with the United Nations and the Haitians." He acknowledged that planes needed to be "prioritised".

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spent several hours at Port-au-Prince's airport during a lightning visit, told Haitians that help would come.

Meanwhile, some 330 UN staff remain unaccounted for, with mission chief Hedi Annabi among 40 confirmed dead in the world body's biggest loss of life.


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