A 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, on Tuesday 12 January 2010. The capital Port-au-Prince, was heavily affected. The DHL DRT Americas, based in Panama, touched down and started operating out of Toussaint L’ouverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince within 48 hours. Our DRT with 10 DHL volunteers was the first logistics team at the airport. With so many shortages, security and logistical challenges, the DRT’s skills at managing aid were sorely needed. More than 500 tonnes of relief goods were handled and temporarily stored by the DRT within the first week.
One week after the earthquake we moved our main DRT operations from Haiti to the Las Americas International Airport in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Until the end of January 2010, a team of 5 DHL volunteers continued to unload humanitarian aid flights bringing drinking water, medical supplies and other aid, in close cooperation with the United Nations. In particular, the team managed a 3,000 square meter warehouse used to store and sort incoming aid on behalf of non-goverment organizations (NGOs). Thereafter, the DHL DRT team made ist way back to Port-au-Prince, to assist different NGOs on an ad hoc basis until Saturday 6 February 2010. Taking all three phases together 36 volunteers handled more than 2,000 tonnes of relief aid. Deutsche Post DHL is cooperating with OCHA in disaster management since 2005.
Support of US military and NGO’s handling incoming goods
(02/01/2010) The Disaster Response Team (DRT) has now moved back into Port-au-Prince airport after handling incoming flights at neighbouring Santo Domingo airport over the past 12 days.
Soon after the earthquake hit Haiti, it became clear that the airport of Port-au-Prince was too small and too destroyed to handle the incoming aid. Therefore all large cargo flights were redirected to neighbouring Santo Domingo, from where the cargo was then transported to Haiti via the land route.
The DHL Disaster Response Team took care of the inbound and outbound services, including unloading, inventory and uploading of cargo onto trucks. They set up a warehouse and over 12 days handled 1100 tons of freight in total at Santo Domingo Cargo Village, with the help of DHL’s agent DAMA.
Now the logistics at Santo Domingo is running sufficiently well, the DHL DRT handed over the warehouse and services to DAMA, who will continue to assist at Santo Domingo airport and the continuous flow of incoming goods. In the meantime, a core DHL DRT team has made its way back to Port-au-Prince, to find the cargo situation has improved at the airport and incoming relief goods flights are handled mainly be the US military.
Since Sunday, 31st January, the 6 DRT members have set up a small camp between runway and ramp at Port-au-Prince airport and assist Shelter Box, UK Aid, AWO International, Samaratins Purse, Care, Texas Mens Outreach and many other NGOs on an ad hoc basis. The team will pull out on Sat 6 February and return to their families and normal jobs.
Disaster Response Team relocates main outpost to Las Americas International Airport in Dominican Republic
(01/18/2010) Deutsche Post DHL has moved its main Disaster Response Team outpost from Haiti to the Las Americas International Airport in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The team continues to unload humanitarian aid flights daily totaling over 100 tons of relief goods per day including cases of water and medical supplies.
- is managing a 3000 sq. meter warehouse for other non-goverment organizations (NGOs) to store and sort incoming aid.
- has flown five forklifts into Santo Domingo from Caracas, Venezuela to help transfer air goods from aircraft pallets to container trucks bound for Haiti.
- is stressing the importance that all cargo flights have pre-arranged onward transportation from the Dominican Republic into Haiti as warehouse capabilities are extremely limited and all ground transportation needs to be escorted.
DHL DRT is proud of its partnership with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the area of Disaster Management and will continue the strong collaboration to support humanitarian efforts in Haiti.
Finding food, forklifts and gasoline
(01/17/2010) DRT volunteers based at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti spent the weekend (16th and 17th January) organizing equipment. The small backup team in Santo Domingo, the Dominican republic worked with UN agencies, airport and government personnel.
After urgent attempts to reach DHL employees, good news has just arrived from the Central Americas. All of DHL Haiti’s employees are safe and accounted for. Meanwhile, the Haitian employee from the Leipzig hub, Jacques Guerrier, has arrived in Haiti. He has not heard from his family who live in Carrefour, near Port-au-Prince, since the earthquake.
Distributing aid is still slow due to the widespread destruction, shortages, and security concerns throughout Haiti. Until the weekend, the borders were closed and few flights could land at the small airport at Port-au-Prince (PAP), which is under US military control. DRT Americas team leader Gilberto Castro and his small team are based there, processing the goods that are starting to arrive.
The PAP airport has little warehousing capacity at this stage. Sometimes trucks head directly on to the runway to unload goods straight from planes. So the DRT are working to make the aid supply chain safer and more efficient.
In Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, DHL’s Director of Humanitarian Affairs Chris Weeks spent the weekend coordinating between the airport authorities, local UN logistics cluster representatives, and U.S. government officials.
DHL has managed to send in emergency telecoms equipment from Panama to Port-au-Prince, and food for DHL staff, who are down to their last supplies. They also delivered trucks of gasoline, food and forklifts from Santo Domingo to Haiti. There are plans to move some employees and their families out of Haiti, especially those that have family members who need medical care.
With so many shortages, security and logistical challenges, the DRT’s skills at managing aid are sorely needed. So they are working fast to secure agreements and equipment to run their operations on the troubled island.
(01/16/2010) When a Haitian employee working at the DHL Express hub in Leipzig heard of the earthquake in his country, he had only one wish: go there and help. With the help of his unit, he’ll fly off to join the Disaster Response Team to provide support for Haiti as soon as he can.
Jacques Guerrier ticks the languages he speaks off on his fingers. “Creole, Spanish, French and German, I’ll provide any assistance that I can,” says the Haitian linguist and DHL employee. Based at DHL’s Leipzig hub, Guerrier is now packing his bags, ready to join the Americas’ Disaster Response Team currently getting ready to deploy to the earthquake zone in Haiti.
The Group’s Disaster Response Team of volunteers is providing support from Santo Domingo, and at Haiti’s biggest airport, Toussaint-Louverture. Right now, the Group and the UN are organising a Memorandum of Understanding. A team of volunteers, led by Gilberto Castro, will streamline the influx of aid coming to the country.
Guerrier is desperate to join them. Born and raised in Haiti, and then in Miami, U.S., he is close to the country, and deeply concerned about the situation. As a frequent visitor to his family back home, he knows Haiti’s culture, language, and people well. “It’s where my heart is, where my closest family is,” he says. “I was just there in September. Everything was okay then.”
“As soon as I heard about the earthquake, I tried to reach my family,” he says. The earthquake caused widespread destruction, and telephone lines are down. It was impossible to make contact. “So I called my aunt in Miami, who didn’t have any more news.” She advised him to wait, he says. Instead, worry drove him to act. Guerrier grabbed the phone, and reached out to his manager. “I explained that I wanted to help any way I can.”
DHL organised for Guerrier to join the Disaster Response Team. He is travelling by train to Frankfurt, Germany. Next comes the nine-hour flight to Philadelphia, U.S., followed by a four-hour flight to Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. It is unclear how the DRT will travel from there to Port au Prince, Haiti’s troubled capital: by plane, or, if the airport is too crowded, overland.
So while packing bags, gathering clothes, filling out forms, Guerrier is busy. He looks forward to supporting the Disaster Response Team. A trained linguist, fluent in the languages spoken in Haiti, he also has work experience at the Leipzig hub in many tasks that await the DRT: unloading planes, driving a forklift, managing a warehouse.
In Port-au-Prince, the DRT may stay in local accommodation, or camp down at the airport. “Well I’ve probably seen worse than that – remember, I’m from Haiti,” he says. Armed with good wishes from colleagues throughout the Group, but travelling light, Guerrier is still not certain what will await him when he arrives.
“It means so much to me that I can go there,” he says. “It’s remarkable. There’s no word to express how grateful I am,” he says. “I’ll do everything that I can to help.”
Searching for colleagues in Haiti
(01/15/2010) Guillermo Miotti, HR Director DHL Express, Caribbean and Central Americas, had just returned to his Panama base from Christmas holidays in Argentina, when he heard news of the earthquake in Haiti. Worried days followed. Where were DHL’s employees? Were they all right?
One day passed. Still no news. “At some point we said someone needs to go there and make sure these people are okay,” says Miotti. He had just come back from his Christmas holidays. That night, he flew from Panama to Santo Domingo, and the next day from Santo Domingo to Port au Prince.
“We were lucky to have the DRT team based in Panama – so we flew with them to Port-au-Prince,” he says. “Once we were there, the DRT team started their operation. And we immediately went to look for our people.”
How do you find people in a city that has been reduced to rubble? Haitian Country Manager Jean Paul Faubert drove Miotti, Daniel Gomez, Head of Security for the Americas, and Operations Supervisor Dominic Siclait, from one house to the next. Siclait knew where most of the employees lived. “He was our guide,” says Miotti.
“Outside it was pretty shocking,” he recalls. The small team drove using the city ring road – technically a detour, but the journey was faster. Many roads were blocked with rubble, so they tried to find other routes. Each time they went to someone’s home, they didn’t know what to expect. “We’ve known some of these people for a few years. You have a personal relationship, even though you don’t meet on a daily basis,” he explains. “I was very happy to see many of them, that they were alive.”
Two days later, communications had improved. They could call employees, and find out who had seen whom. They passed the message on that food, water and any other help the employees might need was available at the main office, 24 hours a day. Everything that the DHL planes had brought was stored for the employees at the gateway facility.
The CCA and Americas Team managed to transfer money for the employees to be paid as punctually as possible, to provide a sense of continuity. "Many employees came to help at the office in Port-au-Prince’s airport. Siclait, Operations Manager Gerald Guichaud, Security Officer Henriot Lafontant and others showed up to help as early as 6 am, “That sense of normality was important for them,” Miotti reflects. At the airport, representatives from the United Nations, and from the U.S. military, thanked them for all they were doing.
Once he found that all were safe, Miotti returned home. He is grateful for the safety of his own family. But each day the memories are with him. “All the bodies on the street. The faces of the people. People sleeping outside their houses even when they were still standing because they are afraid of new quakes.” He and many thousands of others will remember what they saw for some time. “It will take a long, long time to rebuild,” he reflects.