At Airport, Aid Flows In But Trickles Out

  • Firefighters yell for help as they try to put out a fire at the Pasta Mamma noodle factory in Port-au-Prince on Monday.
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    Firefighters yell for help as they try to put out a fire at the Pasta Mamma noodle factory in Port-au-Prince on Monday.
    All photos by David Gilkey/NPR
  • People scramble to pick up spilled spaghetti at the burning restaurant. With food supplies already low, the fire is yet another blow to a desperate capital.
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    People scramble to pick up spilled spaghetti at the burning restaurant. With food supplies already low, the fire is yet another blow to a desperate capital.
  • A man grips a knife as he looks for other looters to come out of a shop near downtown Port-au-Prince on Sunday.
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    A man grips a knife as he looks for other looters to come out of a shop near downtown Port-au-Prince on Sunday.
  • A man carries a shotgun as he walks through a collapsed burning building while trying to keep looters at bay on the streets outside in the commercial district of downtown Port-au-Prince.
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    A man carries a shotgun as he walks through a collapsed burning building while trying to keep looters at bay on the streets outside in the commercial district of downtown Port-au-Prince.
  • A body, with tied limbs and apparent gunshot wounds to the head, lies in the street Monday.
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    A body, with tied limbs and apparent gunshot wounds to the head, lies in the street Monday.
  • Robenson Bernard cries at a hospital in downtown Port-au-Prince on Monday. Bedridden since November, none of the family members who used to take care of him have come since the quake.
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    Robenson Bernard cries at a hospital in downtown Port-au-Prince on Monday. Bedridden since November, none of the family members who used to take care of him have come since the quake.
  • A Haitian girl, whose nose and cheek were shattered in the quake, holds her head at the main hospital in downtown in Port-au-Prince.
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    A Haitian girl, whose nose and cheek were shattered in the quake, holds her head at the main hospital in downtown in Port-au-Prince.
  • A U.S. Navy helicopter flies over Port-au-Prince on Monday.
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    A U.S. Navy helicopter flies over Port-au-Prince on Monday.
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    Soldiers with the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division prepare to board helicopters to create operating bases across Port-au-Prince on Monday.
  • United Nations soldiers hand out water in front of the National Palace on Sunday.
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    United Nations soldiers hand out water in front of the National Palace on Sunday.
  • Across Port-au-Prince, people attend Sunday services in the rubble of churches.
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    Across Port-au-Prince, people attend Sunday services in the rubble of churches.
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    A man walks past Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church in downtown Port-au-Prince.
  • A Haitian woman receives her first ration of foreign aid in a soccer stadium in Port-au-Prince on Saturday.
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    A Haitian woman receives her first ration of foreign aid in a soccer stadium in Port-au-Prince on Saturday.
  • Haitians line up for U.N. food rations. Desperately needed aid is finally arriving in Port-au-Prince, but congestion at the airport is hampering efforts to get supplies to survivors.
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    Haitians line up for U.N. food rations. Desperately needed aid is finally arriving in Port-au-Prince, but congestion at the airport is hampering efforts to get supplies to survivors.
  • Women stand in line for food rations being handed out by the United Nations Friday in Port-au-Prince.
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    Women stand in line for food rations being handed out by the United Nations Friday in Port-au-Prince.
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    A Haitian man tries to keep a crowd from rushing a U.S. Navy helicopter as it unloads water in a Port-au-Prince park.
  • As survivors await international aid Sunday, Haitian men pass out water and soda taken from a collapsed store near Port-au-Prince.
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    As survivors await international aid Sunday, Haitian men pass out water and soda taken from a collapsed store near Port-au-Prince.
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    A boy uses a jug of water to wash off in a city park near the national palace.
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    Across Port-au-Prince Haitians are scrambling to salvage what they can. A woman carries a bag of clothing recovered from her apartment.
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    Refugees wait in a makeshift camp Saturday near downtown Port-au-Prince.
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    People gather around broken water pipes to collect fresh drinking water Friday in Port-au-Prince.
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    The streets are filled with people carrying their few remaining belongings.
  • The search for people in the rubble continues. A Haitian rescue worker helps the L.A. County Search and Rescue team in in downtown Port-au-Prince.
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    The search for people in the rubble continues. A Haitian rescue worker helps the L.A. County Search and Rescue team in in downtown Port-au-Prince.
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    Haitians watch the L.A. rescue team's efforts at a collapsed building. Officials estimate at least 50,000 people were killed by the quake.
  • A boy tries to get a drink as looters scavenge the rubble of a supermarket Saturday in Port-au-Prince.
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    A boy tries to get a drink as looters scavenge the rubble of a supermarket Saturday in Port-au-Prince.
  • First Lt. Greg Bitner watches over Haitian men who have gathered at the airport in hopes of getting work.
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    First Lt. Greg Bitner watches over Haitian men who have gathered at the airport in hopes of getting work.
  • Haitians leave Port-au-Prince on a flatbed truck. Other towns in Haiti were also hit hard, but not much aid has made it beyond the devastated capital.
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    Haitians leave Port-au-Prince on a flatbed truck. Other towns in Haiti were also hit hard, but not much aid has made it beyond the devastated capital.
  • A man stands on a rooftop yelling out for any sign of his missing relatives Friday in a devastated hillside neighborhood near downtown Port-au-Prince.
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    A man stands on a rooftop yelling out for any sign of his missing relatives Friday in a devastated hillside neighborhood near downtown Port-au-Prince.

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Aid from around the world continued to flow into Haiti's small airport on Sunday, but bottlenecks kept supplies from reaching tens of thousands of Haitians waiting in makeshift camps or wandering the streets in search of help.

Two huge cargo planes from China landed at the airport Sunday morning. And helicopters from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division were taking off, loaded with shipments of food and water to be delivered to devastated areas around the country.

  • Millions of earthquake survivors in Haiti are still waiting for the bulk of fresh food, water and other basic supplies.
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    Millions of earthquake survivors in Haiti are still waiting for the bulk of fresh food, water and other basic supplies.
    All photos by David Gilkey/NPR
  • NPR photographer David Gilkey witnessed a heightened level of desperation when U.S. aircraft dropped water on a park in Port-au-Prince.
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    NPR photographer David Gilkey witnessed a heightened level of desperation when U.S. aircraft dropped water on a park in Port-au-Prince.
  • Gilkey says there was only one Navy officer to keep people away as the helicopter unloaded. Another man stepped in to help fend off the crowd.
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    Gilkey says there was only one Navy officer to keep people away as the helicopter unloaded. Another man stepped in to help fend off the crowd.
  • "There must have been 200 people scrambling toward the helicopters," Gilkey says. "The blades were still turning."
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    "There must have been 200 people scrambling toward the helicopters," Gilkey says. "The blades were still turning."
  • "As soon as we were beneath the rotor blades, [the crew] jumped on the helicopters and took off, because it was just getting out of hand."
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    "As soon as we were beneath the rotor blades, [the crew] jumped on the helicopters and took off, because it was just getting out of hand."
  • The crowd of men shoved and pushed to scoop up packages of bottled water. "It was just absolute pandemonium."
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    The crowd of men shoved and pushed to scoop up packages of bottled water. "It was just absolute pandemonium."
  • Aid is actually flooding into Haiti, but bottlenecks at the airport allow only a trickle of those supplies to flow. Meanwhile, people are doing whatever they can to survive.
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    Aid is actually flooding into Haiti, but bottlenecks at the airport allow only a trickle of those supplies to flow. Meanwhile, people are doing whatever they can to survive.

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But the relief group Doctors Without Borders says a cargo plane carrying an inflatable surgical hospital was blocked from landing in Port-au-Prince on Saturday. The plane was diverted to an airport in the Dominican Republic. The charity says the supplies are being trucked in over land, delaying their arrival by 24 hours.

Aid Is Flowing In

Among the planes that were allowed to fly in on Saturday were carriers from from Canada, Nicaragua and even as far away as Qatar. They taxied down the airport's single runway and lined up on the tarmac to unload water, medical supplies and food.

And two huge Argentine military cargo jets filled with aid stopped in front of the badly damaged main terminal. Four U.N. trucks pulled up behind the jets and dozens of soldiers quickly began pulling boxes of canned meat out and heaving them up to the flat beds.

Argentine soldier Dario Lillja threw boxes up to the truck as fast as he could, working up quite a sweat. He says Haiti is worth the hard work and he'd do anything for the country. Lillja and his army company have been here working in the U.N. mission since last year. He says it's heartbreaking to watch such suffering and not be able to help. This is the first shipment from Argentina to make it in.

Lillja says he's relieved now that aid is finally flowing. He says it's still not enough — the people deserve so much more.

Airport Conditions Safer

Pilot Max Vargas dropped off a plane load of doctors from the Dominican Republic. He says operations are going more smoothly.

"The Americans, especially the military, they took control of the air traffic system and now it is very much improved — much safer," Vargas says.

Conditions at the airport were not without problems. Brazil and France complained that the U.S. military had denied landing permission for a couple of flights.

During a quick tour of the airport Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it clear that the Haitians are in charge.

"We are here at the invitation of your government to help you," she said. "And I know of the great resilience and strength of the Haitian people and you have been severely tested, but I believe that Haiti can come back even stronger and better in the future."

Clinton flew in on a C-130 cargo plane full of water and packaged meals for Haitians, along with shampoo, soap and other supplies for staff at the U.S. Embassy. She flew back home with 50 Americans.

Foreigners Make It Out, Praise God

Hundreds more stranded foreigners also made it out of Haiti, including a group of missionaries from Iowa who waited more than 6 hours in the hot sun for a flight home.

The women not only praised God, but also the U.S. soldiers who handed out ice-cold sodas to ease the long wait.

By 4 p.m., 200 Americans, Haitians and other foreigners were climbing into the belly of a huge empty military cargo plane. Military personnel directed the passengers onto the floor, where they would sit cross legged for the three-hour flight back to Miami.

Gennie Hess, one of the missionaries from Iowa, says she is so glad to be going home.

"It feels wonderful," she says. "Sitting down I've had my Coke and I'm on a roll."

She says the first thing she will do at home is take a long shower.

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