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U.S. looks at Haiti evacuation options as Americans and Haitians hope to escape gang violence

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Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic — The U.S. State Department says it’s exploring options to evacuate American citizens trapped in Haiti, where a power vacuum has left violent gangs to seize control of most of the capital and sent more than 15,000 people fleeing from their homes.

Ten U.S. nationals arrived in Florida on Tuesday aboard a private plane that was chartered by missionaries out of Haiti.

As CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez found in Haiti’s northern city of Cap-Haitien, many others are still hoping to escape — and worrying about those they may have to leave behind.

“We continue to explore options that we have at our disposal when it comes to American citizens interested in departing Haiti,” deputy State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said Tuesday. He said nearly 1,000 people had filled out a crisis intake form via the department’s website, seeking help or a way to flee Haiti. 

He said the State Department would “remain in touch with those American citizens.”

TOPSHOT-HAITI-POLITICS-UNREST-PROTEST
Residents react after a dozen people were killed in the street by gang members in Petion Ville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, March 18, 2024.

CLARENS SIFFROY/AFP/Getty


Asked whether the U.S. government backed private evacuation flights that have been arranged, in some cases with help from members of the U.S. Congress, Patel said such missions “deviating from formal State Department operations” could be high-risk. But he stressed that the government welcomed any American citizen making their way to safety.

Gregoire Leconte, who has a U.S. passport, was one of hundreds of people in Cap-Haitien trying to flee the country on Tuesday, with no flight to leave on.

“The situation is very bad in Haiti,” he told CBS News.

A woman, who asked not to be identified, expressed fear for the friends and family she could soon leave behind, but she made it clear the risks were too high.

“People go inside your house, killing, raping, all those things, burning your house,” she said.


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As many waited for an opportunity to get out, a missionary flight from Fort Pierce, Florida landed in Cap-Haitien carrying roughly 5,300 pounds of critical humanitarian supplies, including food and baby formula.

CBS Miami’s Tania Francois was the only journalist on that flight. Airport workers told her it was the first plane to fly into Haiti from the U.S. carrying passengers and desperately needed provisions.

The plane later flew south from Cap-Haitien to the town of Pignon, about half way between the northern port city and the chaos of Port-au-Prince. It later brought 14 people back to Florida; 10 U.S. passport holders and four Haitian nationals.

“It’s not what I wish, because Haiti is my country,” Haitian passenger Christla Pierre told Francois. She said she was traveling to the U.S. as it was the only way her 15-month-old son, who is an American national, could see a pediatrician.

Another Haitian on the plane, Annexe Soufferance, said he was returning to the U.S. on a student visa after visiting family in the Caribbean nation.

“I’m glad for the opportunity I have to study in the U.S., but my goal is to come back and serve my country,” he said.

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