Department of State

Looting Follows Protests in Haitian Capital; Flights Canceled Around U.S.

Oppositions groups are rioting in the streets in response to Friday’s announcement from their government about increased gasoline prices

Looters pillaged burned and vandalized shops in Haiti's capital Sunday following two days of violent protests over the government's attempt to raise fuel prices.

Journalists saw young men stripping shelves bare in some supermarkets that were charred from the protests. Several bodies lay among the debris scattered in the streets.

With the situation still chaotic, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince on Sunday warned U.S. citizens to shelter in place. It noted that many flights were canceled and said, "The airport has limited food and water available."

Passengers traveling to and from Haiti from the United States are currently on standby, as some airlines have canceled flights due to demonstrations on the streets of Port-au-Prince.

Protesters in Haiti are burning tires, blocking major intersections and destroying businesses.

Oppositions groups are rioting in the streets in response to Friday’s announcement from their government about increased gasoline prices. Under the new proposed prices, a liter of regular gas would cost nearly $5. The fuel hike was scheduled to take effect Saturday.

The second day of civil unrest caused U.S. airlines to cancel all of their flights to Haiti on Saturday. Both Jet Blue and Spirit notified passengers of the travel advisory on social media.

For American Airlines passenger Tamy Michel, suspended flights means missing a relative’s funeral service just outside of Port-au-Prince. Her midday flight leaving from Ft. Lauderdale was canceled.

“I was supposed to go for 48 hours and to come back on Monday. But as of right now, everything is canceled, so we don’t know what’s really going on,” said Michel.

The burning fires and confusion caused Haiti’s Prime Minister to announce the suspension of the price adjustment measure until further notice. State Department officials tweeted updates and are instructing personnel at the U.S. embassy in Haiti to shelter in place and rebook any flights originally scheduled for Sunday.

“I’m hoping, like everybody, they get it together and the chaos stops because it’s impacting even us in the diaspora right now,” said Michel.

Passengers with flights booked to Haiti are being urged by airlines to check their flight status before going to the airport. 

JetBlue released a statement saying that they were canceling all flights to Haiti on Sunday. 

"We continue to monitor reports of civil unrest near the Port Au Prince airport and have canceled today's flights. Customers should check their flight status before heading to the airport," said JetBlue. 

Meanwhile, volunteer groups from several U.S. states are stranded in Haiti after violent protests over fuel prices canceled flights and made roads unsafe.

Church groups in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Alabama are among those who haven't been able to leave, according to newspaper and television reports.

Chapin United Methodist Church in South Carolina posted online Sunday that its mission team is safe but stranded. Marcy Kenny, assimilation minister for the church, told The State newspaper that the group is hoping the unrest will abate enough for them to make it to the airport.

A North Carolina doctor and his son were part of a medical mission group had flights canceled. Shelley Collins tells WRAL-TV that her husband, James, and their son made it to an airport but were having trouble getting a flight.

At least three people were killed in protests on Friday and police say the bodies of four people were found Sunday in the streets of the Delmas district, though they didn't say if that is related to the protests.

The government on Saturday scrapped plans to raise fuel prices to 38 to 51 percent. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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