Some Haitians Leave By Plane Shortly After Quake

Haiti has many connections to the United States, connections of both family and business. Just as the earthquake struck, some people were preparing for a flight to Miami. The plane managed to take off before the airport was shut down, and they touched down safely in the U.S.

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DEBORAH AMOS, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Deborah Amos, in for Renee Montagne.

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And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Yesterday's Haitian earthquake measured 7.0 and it buried many people and collapsed buildings in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Haiti has many connections to the United States, connections of both family and business, and just as the earthquake began, some people were preparing for a flight to Miami.

NPR's Greg Allen met them as they touched down safely in the United States.

GREG ALLEN: Like many Haitian-Americans, Claude Lanvier(ph) travels to Haiti frequently to visit family and friends. He is a taxi driver with a family of his own in Norwood, Massachusetts. He arrived in Miami last night on the first plane out of Haiti after the earthquake hit. He was scheduled to leave Port-au- Prince at 5:30 p.m. but the earthquake struck first. He and other passengers were in the airport waiting room when it hit.

CLAUDE LANVIER: The building started shaking and moving, and debris, the ceiling started falling, you know, everything moving to the left, moving to the right and people started crying, saying I'm dying, my kids, what's going on? And nobody knows, nobody knows. It was like people were flying (unintelligible). I fell on the ground and about 15 people falling on top of me. You know, my passport, you know, were missing, my green card were missing, and (unintelligible) I heard it's 7.0. This is a big.

ALLEN: Lanvier says at first he thought a plane had hit the building. The airport's windows were broken, the structure was cracked, but after checking the runway, airport personnel said it was safe for takeoff. Joslyn Dosane(ph) also came in on the plane from Port-au-Prince. He says by the time the jet was ready to take off, most of those with tickets had left the airport.

JOSLYN DOSANE: About 75 percent of the passengers didn't get on the plane, you know, and the saddening fact is, I mean, they're thinking, you know, they're scared because of the situation that went on, but it would have been better for them to actually get on the plane because what was happening was on the ground, not upstairs, you know. Basically they were just scared, you know, they were just scared to fly. They didn't know what was going to go on afterward.

ALLEN: Before the plane left Port-au-Prince, Annette Rosiye(ph) said she received information about her hometown, St. Marc, on the island's west coast, and the news was not good.

ANNETTE ROSIYE: I have one friend tell me, they have one hotel in St. Marc, half the hotel is broken.

ALLEN: Fell right down.

ROSIYE: Uh-huh

ALLEN: Everyone on the plane said they were grateful to have gotten out safely but arrived in Miami last night with the same thought - how to get in touch with family and friends in Haiti.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

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