HAITI (660 NEWS) — Twenty-four Alberta missionaries are beginning to evacuate Haiti as a helicopter arrived Saturday morning to airlift the group to the capital city’s airport.
Members of the charity Haiti Arise were supposed to be airlifted by a helicopter to the capital of Port-Au-Prince on Friday, but that helicopter wasn’t able to arrive.
On the organization’s Facebook they wrote that a group of nine boarded the first chopper early Saturday morning and that eight members were able to get on a flight out of Haiti at 9:40 a.m., one member is waiting for the rest to arrive at the airport.
The helicopter company has four other groups to pick up Grand Goave and has to do all four trips before 5 p.m.
On Friday, Haiti Arise said the ‘situation was escalating’ and they weren’t able to get out by road.
“The rioters have blocked the roads; put boulders on the road; put tires on the roads and lit them on fire,” according to James Roberts, vice-president of Haiti Arise. “In the city, there are massive amounts of people protesting on the streets and they’re burning cars; they’re flipping over cars, looting, robbing and destroying and there’s no way you’re able to travel.”
Roberts has been in direct communication with the group who’ve stayed put in Grand Guove.
“It was impossible to even attempt to get into Port-au-Prince so they didn’t even try,” he said.
In a blog post on Haiti Arise from Feb. 14, 16-year-old Ayva Kauffman from Edson said the group was unable to depart on Valentine’s Day as planned “but we are fine where we are, and won’t head to the airport until it is safe”. It’s unclear if the group is able to communicate further updates as Kauffman indicated that the internet is down and cell phone service is poor.
Global Affairs Canada has since issued a travel advisory warning Canadians to avoid all travel to the country due to civil unrest. A spokesperson with Global Affairs told 660 NEWS they are closely following the developments in Haiti.
“Our diplomats on the ground are in touch with their counterparts from other countries, as well as with local authorities, to share information and advice. Consular services are being provided to Canadian citizens in Haiti and we stand ready to provide assistance to Canadians who require it. Global Affairs Canada is also working with tour operators to provide consular advice to them as they work to ensure that their clients are able to leave Haiti safely. We encourage Canadians who are in Haiti as part of a package vacation to stay in touch with their tour operators as the situation develops,” Richard Walker, spokesperson with Global Affairs Canada, said.
The Canadian Embassy based in Port-au-Prince has also closed the embassy due to civil unrest.
“The health and safety of Canada’s diplomats is also a priority. Due to the ongoing uncertainty, the embassy in Port-au-Prince was closed today,” Walker said. “We will continue to evaluate the security situation over the coming days to determine what steps are necessary to ensure that our diplomats and their families are safe.”
He also added that consular services are not affected.
— Philippe de Bard (@Phdb2009) February 12, 2019
The country is embroiled in civil unrest over corruption accusations, and the plummeting value of local currency. There are also calls for the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. In 2010, the Caribbean nation was wracked by a magnitude-7 earthquake that left around 250,000 people dead and devastated the economy of the small island nation.