Air Charter Service was called into action less than an hour after a devastating earthquake in Haiti.
Just before 10pm UK time (5pm local time) on Tuesday evening a massive earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale struck less than ten miles from the centre of Port-au-Prince - the capital of Haiti. It is the largest earthquake to hit the country in two centuries. It is estimated that upwards of 50,000 people may have died as a result of the initial earthquake and the 13 subsequent aftershocks, and more than half a million homes have been affected.
As a result, millions of pounds worth of aid has been pledged by the British Government and various charities. Despite the snowy conditions in southern England on Wednesday, Air Charter Service managed to work with Gatwick Airport to clear a runway so that the chartered Boeing 757 could depart with the UK search and rescue teams.
Matthew Purton, Passenger Sales Manager at ACS’s London office, said: “We started receiving calls at about 11pm from the British Government for an aircraft to carry an assembled team of approximately 80 firefighters, aid workers and journalists to the affected area as soon as possible. We were working throughout the night contacting the appropriate airlines and handling agents to organise the UK’s response to the disaster.”
ACS had three representatives at Gatwick first thing on Wednesday morning coordinating the aid teams and arranging check in. James Leach of ACS travelled on board the aircraft: “We flew into Santa Domingo in the neighbouring Dominican Republic as when we left the UK the control tower at Port au Prince was not operational. From what I have seen so far, the devastation appears to be on a par with when I was in Banda Aceh following the tsunami in December 2004.” James Leach is remaining on site to coordinate further relief flights.
ACS's London office has chartered further passenger and cargo aircraft, ACS also has additional aircraft operating from Scandinavia, and flights organised by the company’s Spanish and U.S. offices are also currently underway.