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Aid workers struggle to reach Haiti

JTA

January 15, 2010 | 2:50 pm

IDF officials prepared to send medical aid and personnel to Haiti to assist in the earthquake relief effort there, Jan. 14, 2010. (Yossi Zeliger / Flash90 / JTA)

IDF officials prepared to send medical aid and personnel to Haiti to assist in the earthquake relief effort there, Jan. 14, 2010. (Yossi Zeliger / Flash90 / JTA)

Israeli relief workers on their way to Haiti are having trouble getting into the earthquake-stricken country.

The first of Israel’s humanitarian, medical and search-and-rescue teams—a government-sponsored team led by the Israel Defense Forces—reportedly have arrived in the country, but civilian aid agencies are still struggling to find ways into Port-au-Prince.

Tuesday’s devastating earthquake left untold thousands dead and buried under the rubble, and electricity and fuel shortages in the Caribbean nation have prevented relief teams from flying in. Without enough fuel supplies to refuel planes that have been able to land in Port-au-Prince, the airport in Haiti’s capital city is having difficulty clearing space for additional relief flights.

Officials from Magen David Adom, Israel’s version of the Red Cross, said the group’s aid delegation is ready to go in Israel but is waiting for clearance.

IsraAid, a coordinating body for 17 Israeli and Jewish humanitarian groups dispatched a team of 15—including doctors, nurses, paramedics and logistics experts—to the neighboring Dominican Republic, where on Friday they were trying to find ways into Haiti.

“We’re in touch with local organizations in Haiti, and we’re looking at two options: flying from the Dominican Republic to Haiti, or renting a bus or a couple of 4x4s and driving through the border,” Shachar Zahavi, chairman of IsraAid, told JTA in a phone interview Friday morning.

Zahavi said that an American group, Operation Blessing, had shipped a container full of medical and relief supplies from Miami to Port-au-Prince for the relief team to use once they arrive in Haiti.

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