Scramble to save lives and sustain survivors leaves questions unanswered about how recovery will be led.

...hampering the delivery of aid, he noted the U.S. government has been particularly helpful in assisting the Haitian government with restoring and maximizing airport services.

“The control tower has been damaged, while the runway was okay. Therefore, the United Nations is very closely coordinating with the U.S. authorities to have a smooth operation, and I am grateful that the United States government has been swiftly and effectively dealing with this in close coordination with the United Nations,” he said.

But even efficient airport operations couldn’t get around the limitations of the one runway at Toussaint L’Overture International Airport in Port-au-Prince.

A rapid-response combat team from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne command at Fort Bragg, N.C., was days behind schedule in its full deployment, partially blocked out by too few landing slots at the airport. The same problem was holding up an 85-person detachment from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7, stationed in Gulfport, Miss., which had been ready to deploy for four days, according to Rob Mims, public affairs officer with the Naval Construction Battalion Center and 20th Seabee Readiness Group in Gulfport.

The Seabees’ primary task will be debris removal to open access to ravaged areas, although Mims said the scope could change, as personnel have been told to prepare for six months in the country. They are bringing more than 40 pieces of equipment, including dump trucks, excavators, loaders, graders, crawlers, humvees and transport trailers.

Meanwhile, a group of 12 divers from Underwater Construction Team 1 also stood ready to deploy from Navy Amphibious Base Little Creek in Norfolk, Va. The UCT 1 divers are expected to help with inspection and assessment of damaged port areas.

A Maritime Transportation System Recovery Unit, tasked with assessing damage to the port, reported that five cranes at the port were either damaged, unstable or submerged as a result of the collapse of wharfs from the quake. The port also has been compromised by submerged shipping containers, garbage and other debris in the waters.

The crew of Coast Guard cutter Oak started work on Jan. 17 marking navigation hazards, while the cutter Tahoma conducted soundings along the south pier in Port-au-Prince harbor. It was able to find passage for the Crimson Clover, a 270-foot-long barge that began landing relief supplies on Jan. 19. The Coast Guard also was conducting aerial assessments of damage to other Haitian ports, while other personnel worked to restore the Haitian Coast Guard base in Carrefour, just southwest of Port-au-Prince, as a possible supply port. The Coast Guard and Navy are providing the initial response to reopen the ports, but Coast Guard spokesman Russ Tippets said contractors may be brought in later to help rebuild.

However, a group of 800 U.S. Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Lejeune, N.C., are rolling in and deploying to areas to the south and west of Port-au-Prince, where disaster relief efforts were only beginning to reach a week after the quake. They will coordinate with a unit from Sri Lanka and, later, a unit of Canadians.

Brazil, which has a significant economic interest in the region as the source of much-needed natural gas, has a 250-person military engineering company on the ground as well. Brazil has led the U.N.’s 9,000-person stabilization force in Haiti for the past five years. The engineers had been doing road reconstruction, but since the earthquake, they have been assisting with rescue.

Conspicuously absent at the early phase of the recovery effort is any large-scale involvement of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “We have four USACE engineers out of the South Atlantic division, in Atlanta, augmenting the SOUTHCOM engineering cell in Haiti,” says Maj. Marc. D. Young, a spokesman for the Corps directorate of civil works and emergency response in Washington, D.C. “We are ready. We are just planning right now,” he says.

Contractor Pool

Although the Navy’s immediate focus is how to deploy its own personnel, the Naval Facilities Engineering...