Help for Haiti: Traffic makes roadblock for relief - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Help for Haiti: Traffic makes roadblock for relief

Soldiers with the 10th Transportation Company sit in traffic in Port-au-Prince. Soldiers with the 10th Transportation Company sit in traffic in Port-au-Prince.
A UN soldier stands guard outside the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince. A UN soldier stands guard outside the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince.
1st Lt. Sitara Johnson looks at the quake destruction on her way to the US Embassy. 1st Lt. Sitara Johnson looks at the quake destruction on her way to the US Embassy.
The streets of Port-au-Prince. The streets of Port-au-Prince.
Stuck in traffic on the road from the airport to the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince. Stuck in traffic on the road from the airport to the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince.

By Dal Cannady - bio | email

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI (WTOC) - The ride to the American embassy hit 1LT Sitara Johnson and other soldiers right between the eyes. Every block along the half hour ride showed some level of damage from the earthquake.

"It was just chaos everywhere. People everywhere trying to find some shelter. trying to stay out of the sunlight," Johnson said. "They weren't going back in their buildings because they don't know what's going to happen next."

The traffic in the main streets looked like a cross between a traffic jam rush hour and a flattened ant hill.

On the sidewalks, people stood for hours to get food and water from the few relief stations already established. Off the main routes, people in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the world tried to cope.

"We took the back streets and you could tell some of those houses weren't in great shape to begin with now they're leveled," noted 1LT Jamie Lemon.

The crowds swelled into the thousands outside the American embassy. Masses of people waited for help of any kind.

"We saw people for miles and miles trying to get food or water. Water is the hot commodity right now. People were standing in long lines just asking for things. Kids in traffic walking up to vehicles trying to get food whatever sodas we were drinking at the time," Johnson added.

Teams from this unit spent part of their first few days scouting the city. They looked at the damaged port to figure out how they can get their own supplies into Haiti.

They also searched the streets for sites to give out aid. Riots over the weekend at one international site demonstrated the need for order and structure to keep desperate mobs from getting out of hand.

"It makes you feel good to know that you're gonna help in that large capacity. It also makes you nervous because you want to know how it is going to go," Lemon explained.

But the soldiers who call themselves The Ghostriders pledge to do whatever they can as long as they're there to help. Many feel the contrast to their last mission in Iraq feels almost like therapy.

"This is a different tempo," noted SGT Tyrone Leak. " We're working just as hard but the pressure is different. This is a breath of fresh air."

Sgt. Shelby Cross with the 10th Transportation Company, says they're escorting Haitian trucks with supplies from the ports out to distribution points.

They have shifts working 24 hours a day.

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