The first two Russian Il-76 transport planes have landed in the Dominican Republic delivering rescue workers, supplies and heavy equipment to help the earthquake-stricken Haiti.
According to Salavat Mingaleyev, the head of the Russian rescue mission, the rescue teams will leave Santo Domingo for Port-au-Prince on Friday afternoon at the earliest.
"The landing in Santo Domingo is not the best option for us. The rescuers will have to travel about 280 kilometers [174 miles] to reach the destroyed Port-au-Prince," Mingaleyev said.
"Every minute counts now, but it could take up to eight hours to get there," he added.
The Russian planes have been diverted to the neighboring Dominican Republic after the Haitian government said there was no more room for planes to unload their cargo at Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince.
Russia has sent a total of four Il-76 planes to Haiti. The remaining two planes, carrying additional rescue teams, a mobile hospital, supplies and equipment, are still on route to Haiti.
A 7.0-magnitude earthquake, which hit Haiti on Tuesday, destroyed many buildings, including the presidential palace and the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping mission.
The quake's epicenter was 10 miles southwest of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, at a depth of 6 miles. It was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including two measuring 5.9 and 5.0.
Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has said the death toll from the quake could reach "well over 100,000."
The Russian specialists have worked to help the victims of disasters both in Russia and around the world, including in Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Ossetia.
SANTO DOMINGO, January 15 (RIA Novosti)