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Haiti Reopens Main International Airport After Closure For Almost Three Months

Haiti has reopened its main international airport after it was closed for almost three months due to intense gang violence.

Haiti’s main international airport, Toussaint Louverture, reopened on Monday after being closed for almost three months due to severe gang violence. The closure, which began in early March, had increased shortages of medications and essential supplies since the country’s main seaport also remains non-operational.

Currently, only Sunrise Airways, a local carrier, is operating flights in and out of Port-au-Prince. The first departing flight was scheduled for 2:30 pm EDT, bound for Miami. US-based airlines are however not expected to resume services until late May or early June.

Before the reopening of the Toussaint Louverture airport, the closure had left the airport in Cap-Haitien as the sole operational airport in Haiti. However, many people found it inaccessible due to gang control over the roads from Port-au-Prince to Cap-Haitien, making travel dangerous.

During the airport’s closure, the U.S. government and various nonprofit organisations evacuated hundreds of citizens by helicopter as gangs took control of parts of Port-au-Prince, including police stations, opening fire on the city’s main airport. These attacks, which began on February 29, also resulted in the release of over 4,000 inmates from Haiti’s two largest prisons and left thousands homeless.

The United Nations reported a 50% increase in violence-related casualties, with over 2,500 people killed or injured from January to March compared to the same period last year.

As the Toussaint Louverture airport reopened, workers and passengers expressed a mix of relief and fear. Klav-Dja Raphael, a manager at the Couronne Bar near the airport’s operational gate, welcomed clients despite concerns about potential attacks. “We are scared because they can still attack us here,” she said, recalling the terrifying day the airport was initially attacked.

Passengers eagerly awaited flights, with many expressing joy and sadness. Darling Antoine, who secured a U.S. visa, felt heartache at leaving her family behind. Jean Doovenskey, an unemployed accountant, looked forward to a new life in Jacksonville, Florida, but hoped to return to a peaceful Haiti someday.

In the interim, U.S. military planes have delivered supplies to the Port-au-Prince airport, including medication and hydration fluids. Foreign forces are expected to arrive to help quell the gang violence, with Kenya planning to deploy police officers soon. Other countries, including the Bahamas, Barbados, Benin, Chad, and Bangladesh, are also expected to contribute forces, although their arrival dates are not yet clear.

Korir Sing’oei, Kenya’s foreign affairs principal secretary, said a plan to deploy police officers from the East African country was in its final stages. He said, “I can tell you for sure that that deployment will happen in the next few days, few weeks.”

Melissa Enoch

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