Canada Starts Small-Scale Evacuation Of Citizens In Haiti

(AFP) — Canada on Monday started to evacuate by helicopter a small number of its nationals from Haiti, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said, after commercial air links with Port-au-Prince were cut amid political chaos.

Out of 30 vulnerable Canadians that have requested assistance to leave the Caribbean nation, 18 have been airlifted to neighboring Dominican Republic.

The rest are expected to follow in the coming days. There are a total of about 3,000 Canadians in Haiti.

“The Haitian people have been facing a multi-dimensional crisis: a security crisis, a humanitarian crisis and a political crisis. Gangs are terrorizing the streets. Women and children are scared of leaving their homes and corruption is running rampant,” Joly told a news conference in Ottawa.

“And now the gangs have taken the airport, leaving no way to leave Port-au-Prince without putting families in danger,” she said.

“In these circumstances it is important for us to be able to bring Canadians to safety.”

The Dominican Republic offers the quickest escape route, Joly said. She noted, however, that any Canadians in Haiti wanting to be evacuated must have a valid passport.

“We’re also looking at other options,” Joly added, urging Canadians still in need of help to check her social media accounts or Canada’s Global Affairs website for information.

Port-au-Prince remains subject to street battles that erupted in late February, part of a wave of gang violence that has prompted the promised resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

His impending departure, a key demand from armed gangs that aligned to launch the attacks on the capital, has not lessened the violence.

As the formation of a transitional government drags on, ordinary Haitians are suffering serious food shortages.