Lufthansa is helping the earthquake victims on the island of Haiti. A Lufthansa MD-11 air-freighter flew 75 tons of humanitarian aid from Frankfurt to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. From there, the consignment was brought to the disaster area by truck. In a press conference before take-off, the Minister of State from the Foreign Department, Dr. Werner Hoyer, thanked everyone for the "generous help". Lufthansa Cargo had taken over the cost of the flight.
As if Carsten Spohr had anticipated it: "When the driving snow brings the German infrastructure to the limits of its possibilities", Lufthansa Cargo’s CEO related shortly before the special aircraft was to take off," one can only assume the state of things on Haiti after the catastrophic earthquake". Two hours later, it wasn’t going as well as expected at the Frankfurt airport. A deep blanket of snow had covered the freightpalettes which had been positioned the night before next to the MD-11 and were loaded with medication, baby food, water purifying machinery, two jeeps, and (medical)lab equipment. This snow had first to be arduously removed by hand; otherwise the snow would have melted in the aircraft, thus causing a safety risk.
This additional work unit cost the cockpit-crew with Captain Thilo Schmidt and First Officer Matthias Lehmann about an hour. When everything was ready to be put on the aircraft, a palette from the Johanniter-Accident-Aid was found to be one and a half centimeters too high and had to be re-packed, thus rendering the flight plan null and void. Instead of the wished-for 14:00 hour take-off time, the MD-11 left the ground a little after 16:00 hours in the direction of the Caribbean.
Humanitarian aid for about three million Haitians who had been affected by the earthquake came from a total of 13 German humanitarian organizations. The "Malteser Hilfsdienst" supplied two water purification plants, from "Cap Anamur" came childrens- and baby food, the energy suppliers Vattenfall sponsored generators, from the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) came one million Chloride tablets for the preparation of drinking water and the "Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe" loaded, among other things, three Emergency Health Kits with urgently needed medication, sterilizing equipment, bandaging material and a classical assortment of surgical instruments. The Foreign Ministry was the initiator of the "Technischen Hilfwerks"(THW) - organized relief delivery.
The Foreign Ministry’s Minister of State, Dr. Werner Hoyer, called the earthquake in Haiti and its consequences a "catastrophe of apocalyptic dimensions". At the same time, the Politian praised the generosity of the German people and the help rendered by a multitude of organizations as "a brilliant signal of solidarity with the long-suffering people in Haiti".
It the hardest hit regions, the still most sought- after items are drinking water, emergency housing, medication and food, Dr. Hoyer emphasized. All of this helps very little, when the assistance "doesn’t arrive where it’s needed". For this reason, the German Government is also thankful, that "Lufthansa Cargo provided such a large aircraft", the Minister said while addressing Lufthansa Cargo Chairman Carsten Spohr.
Spohr answered, in view of the catastrophe in Haiti with its 150.000 dead and up to 250.000 seriously injured, the commitment shown by the company was "a matter of course": "We can help here, we must help here". That was also the case with the disastrous earthquake in Peru in 2007, 2008 in China and the flooding catastrophe in New Orleans in 2005. Lufthansa Cargo knows what importance infrastructure has. We asked the Administration for help with the Russian flyover rights and with the threatened ban on night flights in Frankfurt. "The time has come when we are able to pay a bit back" justified Spohr for wanting to support the Administration. If there were need for an additional flight, "we will be there" Spohr said, without specifying whether Lufthansa Cargo will assume all the costs again. In the words of the CEO, a second flight could only take place, at the earliest, by the beginning of February.
Werner Vogt, head of the "Technische Hilfwerk" in Hessen, Rheinland-Pfalz and Saarland and in this position, Director of the Center for Foreign- Logistics of the "THW" in Mainz, sees a definite need for further delivery assistance. In Haiti "hundreds of thousands are in need of help and assistance- and that will most probably remain the same for months to come". The problem which affects the German humanitarian organizations is not the locating of the Material. The Problem is the aircraft capacities: "That is what makes the thing so expensive." According to Vogts, the transport to Haiti of the first two water treatment plants in an old, four-motor, Antonow -12 Turboprop maschine had cost around 150.000 Euro. The engineer, who is respected for his many years experience in crisis management, said: "Particularly in the first days after a major environmental catastrophe, the heavy demands for relief flights always lead to one’s being exploited."
Heide Enfield, Spokeswoman for the Lufthansa Cargo subsidiary, Lufthansa Cargo Charter Agency, who organized the free capacities which were offered in the market, as well as the freight handling for the MD-11 heading to Santo Domingo, answered similarly. Some providers, said Enfield, "because of strongly increased demand" for flights to Haiti or the Dominican Republic had doubled or quadrupled their prices: "We were offered a Boeing 747 for 500.000 Euro". Such business tactics are unthinkable for her and "are not compatible with the name Lufthansa". Lufthansa Cargo Charter Agency, which on Sunday first sent a 747 from Atlas Air to Santo Domingo on the behalf of Swiss humanitarian aid organizations, carries out such relief flights to disastrous catastrophes like that in Haiti: "more or less at cost price". After approximately a nine hour flight, the MD-11 landed in the Dominican Republic at 21:20 local time on Monday. A landing direct in Haiti’s Capital Port-au-Prince was just too dangerous, Carsten Spohr pointed out, while justifying the detour over the Dominican Republic. The airspace over Haiti was too full, and the fuel -supply system on the ground for the next leg to New York was not ensured, Spohr related. According to the information supplied by Minister Dr. Werner Hoyer, only 150 humanitarian aid flights can land in Portau-Prince daily. There are demands, however, for about 1000 flights.
Haiti’s Ambassador, Jean-Robert Saget, who had to cancel his visit in Frankfurt because flights from Berlin had to be deleted because of the snow, sent his thanks in a letter. The ambassador explained, that he feels" thankful for the noble and generous help, which the German people and those organizations which were involved in this relief flight bestowed on us, in this particularly difficult time".
HelpAlliance, the voluntary aid organisation set up by Lufthansa staff in 1999, has opened an account at the Frankfurter Sparkasse 1822, to which donations for the people in Haiti can be sent (Account - No. 1245639577, Sort code - 500 502 01, Ref: "Haiti"). As with the tsunami in Southeast Asia, HelpAlliance will give every backing to sustainable measures in support of the Haiti earthquake victims and the Country’s reconstruction. In those efforts, it will work together in proven cooperation with the Catholic religious order, the Salesians of Don Bosco, which operates a worldwide network and which has been active in Haiti for several decades.