World pledges quake relief

Rescue workers still finding people alive under rubble in Haiti

 
Four days after a massive quake killed up to 200,000 people, international rescue teams were still finding people alive under the rubble of collapsed buildings in Port-au-Prince.
Hundreds of thousands of hungry Haitians were desperately waiting for help, but logistical logjams kept major relief from reaching most victims, many of them sheltering in makeshift camps on streets strewn with debris and decomposing bodies.

In the widespread absence of authority, looters swarmed over collapsed stores on the city’s shattered main commercial boulevard, carrying off T-shirts, bags, toys and anything else they could find. Fighting broke out between groups of looters carrying knives, ice-picks, hammers and rocks. Many Haitians streamed out of the city on foot with suitcases on their heads or in cars to find food and shelter in the countryside.

Many others crowded the airport hoping to get on planes that left packed with Haitians.

Obama’s promise

US President Barack Obama promised help as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Haiti, where the shell-shocked government gave the US control over the congested main airport to guide aid flights from around the world. “We are moving forward with one of the largest relief efforts in our history to save lives and deliver relief that averts an even larger catastrophe,” said Obama, flanked at the White House by predecessors George W Bush and Bill Clinton, who will lead a charity drive to help Haiti.

But on the streets of Port-au-Prince, where scarce police patrols fired occasional shots and tear gas to try to disperse looters, the distribution of aid appeared random, chaotic and minimal. Downtown, young men could be seen carrying pistols. And heavily armed gang members who once ran Haiti’s largest slum, Cite Soleil, like warlords returned with a vengeance after the quake damaged the National Penitentiary allowing 3,000 inmates to break out.

There were jostling scrums for food and water as US military helicopters swooped down to throw out boxes of water bottles and rations. “The distribution is totally disorganised. They are not identifying the people who need the water. The sick and the old have no chance,” said Estime Pierre Deny, standing at the back of a crowd looking for water.
Four days after the quake, aftershocks were felt every few hours in the capital, terrifying survivors and sending rubble and dust tumbling from buildings. Trucks piled with corpses have been ferrying bodies to hurriedly excavated mass graves outside the city, but thousands of bodies are still believed buried under the rubble.

Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien-Aime said around 50,000 bodies had already been collected and the final death toll will likely be between 100,000 and 200,000.

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