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First charter flight with U.S. citizens fleeing Haiti lands in Miami

A man enters the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, March 10, 2024.
Odelyn Joseph
/
AP
A man enters the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, March 10, 2024.

MIAMI — A charter flight carrying dozens of U.S. citizens fleeing spiraling gang violence in Haiti landed Sunday in Miami, U.S. State Department officials said.

More than 30 U.S. citizens were on the government-chartered flight, officials said in a statement. It arrived in the Miami International Airport after the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince earlier this month urged U.S. citizens to leave "as soon as possible" as chaos grips Haiti.

Passenger Avlot Quessa, who lives in Boston, traveled from the center of the country to board the charter flight after going to Haiti last month for was supposed to be a weeklong trip to visit his mother.

"It's just terrible ... The suffering, you can only imagine," Quessa told the Miami Herald of the nearby Caribbean nation. "Haiti is my homeland and it's very stressful to see the homeland going through this act of violence, destruction ... and they are our neighbors."

Haiti's main airport in Port-au-Prince remains closed following gang attacks that have raged through Haiti in recent weeks, pushing many people to the brink of famine. Government and aid agencies this weekend reported looting of aid supplies as the situation worsened.

The State Department announced Saturday that it would offer limited charter flights for American citizens from the less chaotic northern city of Cap-Haïtien.

Officials said they could not provide ground transportation to Cap-Haïtien and that U.S. citizens should consider the charter flights "only if you think you can reach Cap-Haïtien airport safely."

"We encourage U.S. citizens still in Haiti who seek to depart to contact the Department of State using the crisis intake form on our website if they have not already done so," the agency said.

People taking the U.S. government-coordinated flights must sign a promissory bill agreeing to reimburse the government.

Another passenger on Sunday's flight, Marie Lucie St. Fleur, 69, of West Palm Beach, said she feels most at home in Haiti and it pains her to see what her homeland is enduring.

"I don't feel well at all. I would like to live in my country and I can't," she said while sitting in a wheelchair.

The State Department said government officials in Miami were helping the newly arrived evacuees to determine their next steps.

The U.S. military last week flew in additional forces to bolster security at the U.S. Embassy, which is in a neighborhood largely controlled by gangs.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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The Associated Press