18 Jan | 2010
Salvation Army teams in Haiti are finding ways round the logistical difficulties of providing urgent aid to people affected by the earthquake in and around Port-au-Prince. Storage facilities have been acquired and local Salvationists continue to provide whatever assistance they can.
Major Tom Louden was part of the team from the Salvation Army World Services Organisation (SAWSO) that drove across Haiti to reach the capital on Friday 15 January. He reports that The Salvation Army has secured a building at the end of the runway in Port-au-Prince. The building is secure and provides 16 rooms for sleeping accommodation, with a media room and a place to cook food. He also says the team has use of two warehouses nearby that are available for supplies and equipment.
Major Louden has now returned to the USA, where a command centre has been set up at The Salvation Army's National Headquarters in Virginia, and a second team has flown into Port-au-Prince, including the Haiti-born Territorial Commander of the Caribbean Territory, Colonel Onal Castor. Also on board were experienced emergency worker Major George Polarek and Major Ron Busroe, an American Salvation Army officer who is the former divisional commander for Haiti. This second team accompanied a cargo plane loaded with vital supplies.
The SAWSO team members are working closely with local Salvationists to ensure aid gets to people who need it most.
Staff from Salvation Army medical clinics are inundated with people who need urgent care and they continue to help as many people as possible. Interviewed by Larry King on CNN, Bob Poff – an American serving as The Salvation Army's director of disaster services on Haiti – said that he, along with almost everyone in Port-au-Prince, is sleeping outside because the buildings are unsafe. Children from the Salvation Army home are sleeping in the middle of the divisional headquarters compound.
More international personnel, including members of the International Emergency Services from International Headquarters, are being looked after by The Salvation Army in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA, while they await the availability of private planes to fly them to Haiti.
Lieut-Colonel Mike Caffull of International Emergency Services says it is still very difficult to get to Haiti. He writes: 'The many cargo planes, and the occasional VIP plane, crowd out airspace and make it difficult for our aircraft to get a flight plan approved before being subject to last-minute changes because of the crowded airspace around Haiti. I am told that what should be about a three-hour flight from Fort Lauderdale is sometimes taking up to seven hours because of the need to circle and wait for a space in the "traffic" to land.'
He continues: 'Personnel from USA National Headquarters are working hard and well, considering the very complex logistics for travel plans and relief goods getting into Haiti. There is hope that a large cargo flight will leave Miami for Haiti tomorrow, loaded with relief goods for The Salvation Army. When this arrives it will be extremely helpful to the team, which has warehouse space reserved for this delivery, as it will enable the relief programme to begin to get to the levels we hope to achieve.
'A big thank you to so many people who are praying for us and the teams at this time.'
Lieut-Colonel Caffull's words are echoed by General Shaw Clifton, who asks for continued prayer for the people of Haiti, the country's Salvationists and the Salvation Army team members who are trying to bring help in incredibly difficult circumstances.
Donations to the 'Haiti Relief Fund' can be made online.