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Portland-area groups scramble to get help to Haiti

Haiti, January 19, 2010

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Lynne Terry

The Oregonian
January, 2010

Portland-area aid groups faced a second late night and early morning of scrambling to get medical and emergency personnel to Haiti, which has limited capacity to deal with flights.

"They're going to close the airspace," said Marlene Minor, spokeswoman for Medical Teams International, which is based in Tigard. "And they're talking about shutting down charters."

The Tigard-based group had to reroute its team of two doctors, three nurses and a program specialist from Dallas to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where they will try to catch a charter to Haiti between 2:30 and 4:30 a.m. on Friday.

The team, led by Dr. Dan Diamond from Bremerton, Wash., is carrying enough medical supplies to treat 12,000 people for a week. The group includes Bill Essig, vice president of international programs for the agency; Dr. Joe Markee and his wife Linda, who's a nurse; a nurse from Providence Medical Center, Anne Blaufaus, and Deanna King, a nurse in Washington state, who's been on 14 trips with Medical Teams International.

They will work at a burn center outside Port-au-Prince, Minor said. An orthopedic team from Medical Teams International will leave for Haiti on Sunday, bringing in more medical supplies.

Mercy Corps, which is sending four people as well, sent program manager Gene Kunze from Portland on Wednesday night. A second Mercy Corp emergency responder, Cassandra Nelson, is scheduled to leave this evening from PDX. A third person, Richard Jacquot, will leave from Medford on Friday and the fourth person, Jenny Vaughn, will hop on a plane from Boston.

If all goes well, they will meet up in the Dominican Republic on Saturday.

"Haiti's airport is operating but there are so many flights it's hard to get in," said Caitlin Carlson, a spokeswoman for Mercy Corps. "So we're going to keep our Dominican Republic route."

The two countries share the same Caribbean island of Hispaniola, with Haiti taking up the western third.

Although flights may be stopped, Carlson said aid is starting to pour into the country, which was hit by a 7.0-magnitude quake on Tuesday, killing tens of thousands of people.

Reports out of Haiti depict dire conditions, with bodies trapped under rubble, aid workers missing, communications difficult and supplies in one of the most impoverished countries in the Western Hemisphere.