More troops, peacekeepers expected for Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – Troops, doctors and aid workers flowed into Haiti on Monday even while hundreds of thousands of quake victims struggled to find a cup or water or a handful of food.
European nations pledged more than a half-billion dollars, with €330 million ($474 million) in emergency and long-term aid coming from the European Union alone and €92 million ($132 million) promised by member states.
But help was still not reaching many victims of the quake – choked back by transportation bottlenecks, bureaucratic confusion, fear of attacks on aid convoys, the collapse of local authority and the sheer scale of the need.
“We don’t need military aid. What we need is food and shelter,” one young man yelled at U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during his visit to the city Sunday. “We are dying,” a woman told him.
Looting spread to more parts of downtown Port-au-Prince on Monday as hundreds of young men and boys clambered up broken walls to break into shops and take whatever they can find. Especially prized was toothpaste, which people smear under their noses to fend off the stench of decaying bodies.
At one place, youths fought over a stock of rum with broken bottles, machetes and razors and police fired shots into the air to break up the crowd.
“I am drinking as much as I can. It gives courage,” said Jean-Pierre Junior, wielding a broken wooden plank with nails to protect his bottle of rum.
Even so, the U.S. Army’s on-the-ground commander, Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, said the city is seeing less violence than before the earthquake. “Is there gang violence? Yes. Was there gang violence before the earthquake? Absolutely.'”
U.S. officials say they have 1,700 U.S. troops on ground now and expect about 10,000 either in Haiti of on ships offshore soon.
While aid workers tried to make their way into Haiti, many people tried to leave. Hundreds of U.S. citizens, or people claiming to be, waved IDs as they formed a long line outside the U.S. Embassy in hopes of arranging a flight out of the country.
The Pan American Health Organization estimates 50,000 to 100,000 died in Tuesday’s 7.0-magnitude quake and Haitian officials believe the number is higher. Many survivors have lost their homes and many live outside for fear unstable buildings could collapse in aftershocks.
So many people have lost homes that the World Food Program is planning a tent camp for 100,000 people – an instant city the size of Burbank, California – on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, according to the agency’s country director, Myrta Kaulard.
On the streets, people were still dying, pregnant women were giving birth and the injured were showing up in wheelbarrows and on people’s backs at hurriedly erected field hospitals.
Water began to reach more people around the capital and while fights broke out elsewhere, people formed lines to get supplies handed out by soldiers at a golf course. Still, with a blocked city port and relief groups claiming the U.S.-run airport is being poorly managed, food and medicine are scarce. Anger mounted hourly over the slow pace of the assistance.
“White guys, get the hell out!” some survivors shouted in the city’s Bel-Air slum, apparently frustrated at the sight of foreigners who were not delivering help.
At a destroyed nursing home, 71-year-old Jacqueline Thermiti said she could hold on for another day. “Then if the foreigners don’t come (with aid), “it will be up to baby Jesus.”
Five days after the magnitude-7.0 quake struck, more survivors were freed from under piles of concrete and debris.
Rescuers pulled a 30-year-old man and a 40-year-old woman from what had been the fourth floor of a now-collapsed supermarket on Sunday. Officials said they had survived for so long by eating food where they were trapped.
The rescued woman, Mimi Dittmer, had left the supermarket but went back in to buy something she had forgotten just before the quake flattened the building, imprisoning her for five days, her aunt Patricia Butler said in Puerto Rico.
Emergency teams said they were still hopeful of finding more survivors in the damaged store.
U.S. crews with search dogs also rescued a 16-year-old Dominican girl trapped for five days in a three-story hotel that crumbled in downtown Port-au-Prince.
At the U.N. headquarters destroyed in the quake, rescuers lifted a Danish staff member alive from the ruins, just 15 minutes after Secretary-General Ban visited the site where U.N. mission chief Hedi Annabi and at least 39 other staff members were killed.
U.N. spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said it was possible people could survive until Monday, adding to the 70 lives saved by 1,700 rescue workers since Tuesday’s quake,
“There are still people living” in collapsed buildings, she told The Associated Press. “Hope continues.”
On top of the European Union’s pledge, Britain announced it would triple its commitment to 20 million pounds ($32.7 million) and France said it was willing for forgive Haiti’s €40 million ($55.7 million) debt, as well as promising €10 million ($14.4 million) to the U.N. fund for Haiti.
“The impact of this earthquake is magnified because it has hit a country that was already desperately poor and historically volatile,” said British Development Secretary Douglas Alexander.
Norway, a country of only 4.8 million, said it would increase aid to Haiti to 100 million kroner ($17.7 million).
The U.N. World Food Program expected to reach more than 60,000 people Sunday, up from 40,000 on Saturday, spokesman David Orr said – but U.N. officials said they need to reach about 2 million daily deliveries.
The Geneva-based Doctors Without Borders said bluntly: “There is little sign of significant aid distribution.”
The aid group complained of skewed priorities and a supply bottleneck at the U.S.-controlled airport. Doctors Without Borders spokesman Jason Cone said the U.S. military needed “to be clear on its prioritization of medical supplies and equipment.”
The on-the-ground U.S. commander in Haiti, Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, acknowledged the bottleneck at the airport with a single runway and little space for parked planes. “We’re working aggressively to open up other ways to get in here,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Part of that will be fixing Port-au-Prince’s harbor, rendered useless for incoming aid because of quake damage. The White House said Sunday that the U.S. Coast Guard ship Oak would use heavy cranes and other equipment to make the port functional.
France was among the countries irritated that one of its aid planes had been turned back, but Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner urged governments not to squabble over the problem, telling France-Info radio that “people always want it to be their plane … that lands.”
Keen said some 2,000 Marines were set to join 1,000 U.S. troops on the ground and U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said he planned to ask the Security Council to temporarily increase his force of about 7,000 military peacekeepers and 2,100 international police in Haiti.
Former President Bill Clinton, the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, was scheduled to visit the country and meet with President Rene Preval.