14 Jan 2010

Haiti earthquake: the difficult journey to Port-au-Prince

Haiti earthquake: devastation on a massive scale awaits, but getting there is still proving difficult, blogs Sarah Smith.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – It was almost exactly midnight when I and my team hit the border crossing between the Dominican Republic and Haiti and we hoped that meant we’d be in Port-au-Prince by one in the morning.

We left Washington DC long before dawn on Wednesday – flying first to Miami, then Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic, as the airport in Port-au-Prince had been closed.

Driving across seemed a sensible to way cope with our heaps of gear, which includes a generator tent and hammock, on top of all the water and 14 boxes of broadcast equipment we need.

Everyone is understandably nervous about what we will find when we get nearer to the centre of the earthquake and start to see for ourselves the devastation we have been hearing about. But we know we can’t do anything until we get there.

The problem is it looks like we will not get any further tonight unless we can prove we have permission for our hire car company to take our rented vehicles over the border. And we have no way to prove that. Especially not at midnight.

Our friends from Sky News have been here for two hours already trying to get through without success.

We had assumed we’d be sleeping in these hire cars tonight but we had thought we would be doing that in Haiti.

Ready to get up at first light and start filming, but instead it looks like we will wake up in the wrong country.

What awaits us when we do get into Haiti is almost impossible to imagine. Suffering on a scale I have certainly never witnessed personally before. In order for us to bring you that story by tomorrow night we have to get there first.

Keep track of events in Haiti via the Channel 4 News Twitter list: c4news-haiti-earthquake.

Sarah Smith’s producer, Job Rabkin, writes –

Midnight at one of the world’s most folorn border crossings. Haiti and the Dominican Republic are island neighbours but there’s not much love between them and this place sums it up. Bleak is an understatement.

We rock up after a gruelling six-hour drive to find our colleagues from Sky, a handful of Haitian americans trying to get home and a comical bunch of border guards who gleefully tell us we can’t leave the country with our rental cars.

Earth-shattering natural disasters or not – bueaucracy takes first place. Who will help us? Turns out – it’s the man from Avis. Finally the border guard talks to the man in the capital – forms are filled out and the magic stamp goes on. Six hours later we are ready to enter the disaster zone.