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January 28, 2010

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China Eastern's mission to Haiti


That's all Yang Xiongnan, a pilot with China Eastern Airlines, knew about his mission last Thursday.

"I got only two hours to pack my stuff," said Yang.

The journey to send medical teams and supplies to earthquake-shattered Haiti and carry Chinese rescue teams home from the capital, Port-au-Prince, turned out to be a 66-hour marathon effort.

At the airport taken over by the US military, Yang and his crew had only a 40-minute window in which to land on the only runway on Tuesday. And they had just 4 hours before they had to take off again.

"If you missed one chance of landing, you had to wait for at least another 48 hours," said Yang, 46.

The flight left Shanghai on Saturday and took 49 medical staff as well as 23 tons of supplies one day later from Beijing. Yang, who had earlier flown to Vancouver, joined the plane there and was in command for the rest of the flight.

The plane was delayed at Kingston, Jamaica, for more than nine hours before it was given permission to land at Port-au-Prince at 2:40am Beijing time on Tuesday.

Zhang Jie, an attendant on board, said there were "various tents with different national flags on them and piles of supplies around the airport."

The rescue teams and Chinese citizens waving Chinese flags could not hide their feelings when they saw people from their own country.

"I can tell the excitement from their eyes," said Zhang.

Within four hours, the supplies were unloaded and the medical teams were on their way to help survivors.

After traveling over 30,000 kilometers through seven countries, the Shanghai plane, with 50 rescuers and 48 Chinese citizens on board, returned yesterday. It first landed in Beijing and then got back in Shanghai.

Those rescuers arrived in Haiti on January 14.


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