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joe biden, bill nelson, and janet napolitano talk response to earthquake Vice President Joe Biden discusses U.S. response to the Haiti earthquake at Homestead Air Reserve Base near Miami, Florida, on Saturday. Florida Senator Bill Nelson and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano look on. (Photo courtesy Kiera Fobb)

U.S. VP Reassures Miami Haitians

Southern Florida has largest population of Haitian Americans in the country

By Kiera Fobb | January 19 , 2010

The only airport in Haiti is damaged and unable to support the number of planes now needed to get supplies to the earthquake-ravaged country.

"We’re going to get all this in shape, but I just want everybody to know this first 72 hours, this first week, is pretty hard to get everything we need in there," said U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during remarks at Homestead Air Reserve Base in southern Florida on Saturday.

Biden visited Homestead Air Base to meet with leaders of the Haitian-American community. Homestead is the main hub where relief supplies are being flown out of the U.S. on their way to Haiti. South Florida is home to the largest Haitian-American population in the U.S.

The U.S. is currently concentrating on providing priority needs such as medical aid and urban search and rescue teams, said Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano at the event.

Proving help to Haiti is "like putting a bowling ball through a straw," Biden said. While the U.S. stands ready to send 700 planes with supplies, the only airport is too damaged too handle that much air traffic.

Meanwhile, at Homestead, planes are ready to go.

"It's been very hectic here, but our airmen have really stepped up to the challenge," said Lt. Col. Thomas Davis of Homestead Air Reserve Base. "They've been loading planes, they've been launching planes. They've been taking the different military organizations that need to get into Haiti, they've been getting them out of here fast."

Biden and his group met with members of the Haitian-American community in Miami, known as Little Haiti.

"On behalf of the administration, our hearts ache for you," Biden told them. "This is not just a massive operation ... this is personal."

CRISIS IN HAITI

Check out the Kid Reporters' special report Crisis in Haiti for more information on the country and how to help.

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