PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Within days, the government will move 400,000 people made homeless by Haiti’s epic earthquake from their squalid improvised camps throughout the shattered capital to new resettlement areas on the outskirts, a top Haitian official said Thursday.
Authorities are worried about sanitation and disease outbreaks in makeshift settlements like the one on the city’s central Champs de Mars plaza, said Fritz Longchamp, chief of staff to President Rene Preval.
“The Champ de Mars is no place for 1,000 or 10,000 people,” Longchamp told the Associated Press. “They are going to be going to places where they will have at least some adequate facilities.”
Two aftershocks rattled Haiti shortly before noon Thursday but appeared to cause little new damage as U.S. and international troops ramped up capacity for the quake-ravaged country to receive humanitarian cargo, heavy equipment, fuel and other supplies.
Three new airfields and the reopening of the capital’s seaport Thursday will dramatically increase the amount of aid flowing into Haiti and help relieve the congestion of round-the-clock deliveries at the main airport, the Pentagon said.
Also Thursday, a bill to allow taxpayers to write off charitable donations to Haiti earthquake relief efforts when they file their 2009 taxes this spring, received final congressional approval.
The Senate passed the bill on a voice vote Thursday, sending it to President Barack Obama for his expected signature.
Lawmakers hope the accelerated tax break will encourage more donations. U.S. residents have already donated millions, with the American Red Cross collecting more than $127 million since the Jan. 12 quake.