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HUNDREDS FLEE HAITI ON LAST U.S. FLIGHTS

SHARE HUNDREDS FLEE HAITI ON LAST U.S. FLIGHTS

Hundreds of Haitians left their troubled homeland Friday on the last U.S. flights out of the country, and they wondered whether the future would bring peace or more violence to those who remain.

Effective midnight Friday, flights between the Caribbean nation and the United States were banned. All U.S.-Haitian financial transactions were halted Wednesday.Among those traveling on the 11:30 a.m. American Airlines flight to Miami Friday were three brothers, ages 11, 9 and 6, and their 2-year-old cousin.

"We had been trying since May to get them out, and somehow we were lucky enough to be able to finally do it on the very last day," said their aunt, Danielle Colas, who waited for them at Miami International Airport. "Originally, the idea was for them to come later in the summer, but then my sister and I decided that because things are the way they are in Haiti, we should bring them here as soon as possible," said Colas, an administrative assistant with Florida's Dade County Public Health Trust.

Michel Dererage was traveling on the same American Airlines flight but was headed eventually for Montreal, Canada, where he is a naturalized citizen. He complained that when he arrived at the Port-au-Prince Airport for his 11:30 a.m. flight, a soldier told him he was too late and his seat had been given up to a standby passenger. Dererage said he actually was two hours early.

Others had the same complaint. Many believed soldiers and airport officials were trying to create as many no-shows as possible so they could sell those seats.

Dererage said he finally persuaded the soldier to let him into the airport to retrieve a suitcase he had left inside. It was just a ruse, he said; he instead went to the ticket counter and was able to check in.

Nearly one-third of the 8,000 American citizens living in Haiti left this month, with the numbers growing in the days before the beginning of the flight ban.