20 Feb 2010

Commercial flights resume to Haiti

7:48 am on 20 February 2010

The first commercial passenger flight has arrived in Haiti since a devastating earthquake in January.

The American Airlines Boeing 737 from Miami, carrying 136 passengers, landed at the capital, Port-au-Prince on Friday.

The airport was damaged in the quake but has been kept open by the US military.

The airport has been a vital lifeline for aid to help the 1.2 million people estimated to be homeless in Haiti.

The BBC reports a Haitian flag was waved from the cockpit window as the plane taxied to the terminal. A band played Creole music to welcome the passengers.

Brigadier General Darryl Burke of the US Air Force said the resumption of commercial flights would help Haiti's reconstruction.

An Air France flight is also due to land at the airport later on Friday, as well as other American Airlines flights from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and New York.

The United States embassy in Haiti said the resumption of commercial flights meant the US would phase out evacuation flights.

The airport was initially inundated with aid flights in the aftermath of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake on 12 January.

More than 1.2 million people are estimated to be homeless. An estimated 230,000 were killed.

The United Nations has increased its humanitarian appeal for Haiti to $US1.44 billion.

Officials say there is an urgent need for tents, food and water, before the rainy season arrives.