Haiti chaos hampers aid delivery

Last Updated 19 January 2010, 16:24 IST

As thousands of others head to the countryside, people in one hillside of Port-au-Prince district blocked off access to their street with cars and asked local young men to patrol for looters.

A week after the magnitude-7.0 quake struck, Tuesday dawned with new potential for reinforcements to aid in security and disaster relief. The United Nations Security Council was expected to approve additional peacekeeping forces. Some 2,000 US Marines who arrived in the region a day earlier were parked offshore on ships. But the scope of catastrophe had widened dramatically. The latest casualty report, from the European Commission citing Haitian government figures, doubled previous estimates of the dead to approximately 200,000, with some 70,000 bodies recovered and trucked off to mass graves.

The port remains blocked. Distribution of food, water and supplies from the city’s lone airport to the needy are increasing but still remained a work in progress, frustrating many survivors who sleep in the streets and outdoor camps of tens of thousands.

European Commission analysts estimate 250,000 were injured and 1.5 million were made homeless.

“I simply don’t understand what is taking the foreigners so long,” said Raymond Saintfort, a pharmacist who brought two suitcases of aspirin and antiseptics to the ruins of a nursing home where dozens of residents suffered.

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said not all 15 planned UN food distribution points were up and running yet. The UN World Food Programme said it expected to boost operations to feeding 97,000 on Monday. But it needs 100 million prepared meals over the next 30 days, and it appealed for more government donations.

In one step to reassure frustrated aid groups, the US military agreed to give aid deliveries priority over military flights at the now-US-run airport here, according to the WFP. The Americans’ handling of civilian flights had angered some humanitarian officials.

At the airport, US Navy Commander Chris Lounderman said about 100 flights a day were now landing.

Still, the US military resorted to an air drop from C-17 transport planes on Monday, parachuting pallets of supplies to a secured area outside the city rather than landing and unloading at the airport.

Meanwhile, rescuers continued finding survivors.
Violence added to complications in many places. Medical relief workers said they were treating gunshot wounds in addition to broken bones and other quake-related injuries.

Nighttime was especially perilous and locals were forming night brigades and machete-armed mobs to fight bandits across the capital.

(Published 19 January 2010, 16:23 IST)

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