JIS News

More than 30 individuals stranded in Haiti, following Tuesday’s earthquake in the French-speaking country, arrived home on Friday (January 15), as the Government commenced airlifting home Jamaicans from Port-au-Prince.
Minister with responsibility for Information, Hon. Daryl Vaz, confirmed that those returning home on one of two Air Jamaica rescue flights included 23 Digicel employees, four employees of the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) and five other Jamaicans.
The aircraft, which left Jamaica early Friday morning, took additional Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) personnel to Port-au-Prince to assist with disaster relief efforts. It returned to the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston just before Midday.
Among those at the airport to greet this first group was Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, the Hon. Michael Stern. He welcomed home two employees of his Digitel Haiti/CelTech Haiti mobile phone shops in Port-au-Prince who survived the earthquake.
Mr. Stern said that a number of Digitech and Alo cellphone employees and shops (Alo is connected to Jamaica’s FiMI Wireless) were affected by the quake.
A second Air Jamaica flight will leave Kingston Saturday at 4:45 a.m to arrive in Haiti by 5:45 a.m., to pick up Jamaicans still stranded there.
Speaking at a media briefing at Jamaica House on Friday afternoon, Mr. Vaz said that close to 30 other Jamaicans who were expected home on a second flight Friday are in Haiti, but their names have been forwarded for airlift assistance home on Saturday.
“Because of the congestion at the airport, they (Haitian authorities) asked us to reschedule that flight to tomorrow morning,” he explained.
But, Mr. Vaz said that there may be other Jamaicans in Haiti who have yet to make contact with the authorities. He urged individuals with relatives and friends there, to try and make contact with them to ensure that they are able to make the flight on Saturday.
Arrangements are also being made to provide logistical support at the airport for individuals who respond, particularly those without travel documents.
“I have asked the Chief of the (Jamaica) Defence Staff to provide some of the military personnel that we have there at the airport, to assist these persons in being processed to get on the tarmac to get on the plane. Some don’t have any documentation at all, because of the loss in the earthquake,” Mr. Vaz explained.
“I have also sensitized the Immigration Department, who will be sending immigration officers to do the processing in Haiti, and who will be able to deal with any issue that may arise. Discretion has to be used in cases where people don’t have documentation,” he stated.
“I am making an appeal to all those Jamaicans families who have loved ones over there, to try and communicate with them sometime today, ask them to get to the airport, as early as possible, even tonight (Friday),” he added.
Responding to questions regarding alternative arrangements, in the event persons miss Saturday’s flight, Mr. Vaz said that while he was unaware of additional flights to Haiti, the government was committed to airlifting home all Jamaicans stranded there, as well as others.
“There are Jamaicans here who have family in Haiti, who may not necessarily be Jamaican, for which we are looking at how to facilitate that also, based on the fact that there is nothing in Haiti to continue surviving on in the short term,” he pointed out.
Mr. Vaz also confirmed that Prime Minister Bruce Golding has instructed that no Haitian seeking refuge in Jamaica should be denied, adding that preparations were being made for these developments. He said that the Government was preparing for an influx of refugees, especially in Portland and St. Thomas, because it is inevitable, based on what is happening there.

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