Haiti extends state of emergency as intruders break into key port terminal

Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters/File

A man passes a fire-torn barricade during Haiti’s state of emergency, in Port-au-Prince on March 6, 2024.



CNN

Invaders broke into a major port terminal in Haiti on Thursday, as violence escalated in the country after the government extended a state of emergency.

The Haitian government has decided that the state of emergency in the country’s western region and the capital Port-au-Prince will be extended until April 3. The curfew has been extended until March 10.

It comes as Port-au-Prince’s Caribbean Port Services (CPS) terminal, a key player in Haiti’s food import supply chain, was broken into around 8 a.m., two security sources told CNN. The intruders went to the terminal’s closed warehouse area, where many containers are stored, the sources said.

Video from the port on Thursday showed hundreds of people on the streets around the facility and what appeared to be dozens of people breaking into the locked warehouse. CPS did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.

The source said unrest at the port continues.

Port-au-Prince is in the grip of a wave of highly coordinated gang attacks on law enforcement and state institutions, in what one gang leader, Jimmy Cherizier, has described as an attempt to topple the government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

Armed groups have burned down police stations and released thousands of prisoners from two prisons, and Cherizier has warned of “a civil war that will end in genocide” if the prime minister does not resign, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

The chaos has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in recent days, adding to the more than 300,000 people already displaced by gang violence.

It also affects the distribution of essential goods by aid organizations. The World Food Program has suspended its maritime transport services in Port-au-Prince from distributing aid to Haiti because of the instability.

Odelyn Joseph/AP

A law enforcement officer at a police station was set on fire by armed gangs in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on March 5, 2024.

Two dozen relief trucks filled with food, medical supplies and equipment are stuck at the port of Port-au-Prince, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement on Thursday.

Maritime routes are the only way to transport aid, especially food and medical supplies for humanitarian and development organizations, from Port-au-Prince to the rest of the country, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the UN Secretary General and OCHA.

Haiti’s health care system has “nearly collapsed,” and many health centers have been forced to reduce operations due to violence and lack of staff and medicine, Dujarric said.

According to an official from the country’s Civil Defense, only one public hospital remains operational in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, and emergency services are being severely hampered.

Hôpital Universitaire la Paix has received nearly 70 patients with gunshot wounds since the weekend and several medical centers in the country burned down in the past day, the official said.

Doctors in Haiti are desperate for help due to a lack of oxygen and water.

“There is no oxygen available, no water, nor water to serve the hospitals due to the shutdown of the pumps to supply water to people,” Ronald Laroche, a doctor who runs a network of private hospitals, told CNN. “Most hospitals in the heart of the capital have closed their doors.”

Laroche runs a network of more than 20 medical centers in Haiti, two of which have been destroyed by gangs, he said. “They (gangs) have made it their general quarters. Seven of our medical centers also had to close their doors to prevent our staff from being kidnapped.”

Haiti’s Civil Defense told CNN that since this latest wave of violence, they have been “unable” to collect information on civilian casualties and deaths.

The US has urged Prime Minister Henry to pave the way for a political transition in Haiti, which Haitian officials say could be structured with the initial appointment of a three-member transition council that would choose an interim president to lead the country.

The unelected leader came to power in 2021 with the support of the United States, Canada and other key allies, following the assassination of former President Jovenel Moise. He promised to hold elections in 2023, but they never materialized, with Henry’s government citing the country’s insecurity as a major obstacle.

Henry has struggled to return to the country this week. His plane was diverted to the US territory of Puerto Rico after the Dominican Republic, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti, refused to let it land.

When the violence broke out last Friday, Henry was in Kenya to sign an agreement for a Kenyan-led multinational mission to restore security in the Caribbean country.

Nearby countries have secured their borders after the outbreak of violence. A maritime blockade was imposed in the southeastern Bahamas amid fears of mass migration from Haiti, Commodore Raymond King of the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) said at a news conference on Thursday.

King said officials are particularly concerned about the prison escapes because they fear the escapees will try to flee Haiti by boat.

While security has deteriorated in recent months, Haiti has suffered years of chronic violence, political crisis and drought, leaving some 5.5 million Haitians – about half the population – in need of humanitarian assistance.

More than 40% of deaths in the Haitian capital’s impoverished Cité Soleil neighborhood have been caused by violence, according to a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) study that examined the period between July 25 and August 24, 2023. the mortality rate is comparable to the mortality rate during exceptionally violent periods in Syria and Myanmar.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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