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US Airlifts Help Haiti Reach Areas Most Hard Hit by the Quake

U.S. military aircraft are now ferrying food, tarps and other material into southern Haiti amid a shift in the international relief effort to focus on helping people in the areas hardest hit by the recent earthquake to make it through the hurricane season.

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US Airlifts Help Haiti Reach Areas Most Hard Hit by the Quake

The majority of the country's southern peninsula was a rural and mountainous area that was the epicenter for the August 14 earthquake. People cheered and waved in Jeremie as a Marine Corps unit, from North Carolina, descended in a tiltrotor Osprey equipped with pallets of rice, and other supplies.

However, most of the supplies were not intended for Jeremie. These supplies were to be distributed to mountain communities in remote areas where landslides have destroyed homes and small plots of subsistence farmers. Patrick Tine, of Haiti Bible Mission, was one of several groups that coordinated the distribution of aid.

Tine stated, "They lost the gardens and they lost the animals." He was taking a break from unloading rice boxes. "The mountains fell and they lost all."

At the request of the Haitian government, getting as much help to such people as fast as possible is now the focus of the $32 million U.S. relief effort, said Tim Callahan, a disaster response team leader for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The immediate aftermath of the magnitude 7.2 earthquake, which caused more than 2200 deaths and damaged or destroyed over 100,000 homes, was a time when rescue and search efforts were the main focus.

Heavy rains from Tropical Storm Grace and earthquake damage to roads, bridges, and other infrastructure made this difficult. The threat of gangs, in a country still reeling from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, also made it hard to distribute aid. Many Haitians became increasingly impatient with relief efforts.

"We are just trying to get the material to the most affected areas quickly. "If you do that, then frustration levels go down," Callahan stated over the roaring helicopters at Port-au-Prince's airport. There, U.S troops and civilian aid workers worked in the heat to load the aircraft with pallets.

This is where the U.S. Military comes in to play. The U.S. Southern Command, based in Miami, has so far provided more than 265,000 pounds worth of relief assistance.

The Fighting Griffins, a North Carolina unit, is one of those troops. They are based at New River Marine Corps Air Station and allow journalists from Associated Press to accompany them as they deliver emergency supplies.

Two crews took off at Naval Station Guantanamo bay, Cuba. They flew to Port-au-Prince, where they picked up supplies. Then, they made several trips across the southern peninsula, making multiple stops to deliver their cargo. They only stopped to refuel at the USS Arlington, off the coast from Haiti.

The mission was positive, with pilots and flight crew helping Haitian aid workers load the aircraft. After that, they said their farewells by shaking hands.

One crew delivered over 8,500 pounds of goods in one day. A Marine of Haitian descent from New York City was their interpreter. Lance Cpl. said, "It really means to me to do something such as this." Lunel Najac.

Although the U.S. will likely continue to offer assistance for at least a few more weeks, it remains to be seen if that will be enough to sustain people through the remainder of hurricane season.

Wilkens Sanon of Mission of Hope Foundation said that people need food, water and tarps. This is another group working with the U.S. in order to provide aid to those who are most in need.

He said, "It's very, very bad right at the moment."

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