Archive for Friday, January 15, 2010

Struggle to get aid to Haitians as looters roam

Damaged buildings are seen in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday.

Damaged buildings are seen in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday.

January 15, 2010


2010 Haiti Earthquake

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake occurred 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, causing widespread devastation in Haiti's capital and throughout the country.

Options for charitable donations to quake victims

• Some local businesses and charities are stepping up efforts to help people donate to the Haiti relief effort.

— Hundreds of U.S. troops touched down in shattered Port-au-Prince overnight as U.N. and other aid organizations struggled Friday to get food and water to stricken millions. Fears spread of unrest among the Haitian people in their fourth day of desperation.

Looters roamed downtown streets, small bands of young men and boys with machetes.

"They are scavenging everything. What can you do?" said Michel Legros, 53, as he waited for help to search for seven relatives buried in his collapsed house. A Russian search-and-rescue team said the looting and general insecurity were forcing them to suspend their efforts after nightfall.

"The situation in the city is very difficult and tense," said team chief Salavat Mingaliyev, according to Russia's Interfax news agency.

Hard-pressed government workers, meanwhile, were burying thousands of bodies in mass graves. The Red Cross estimates 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in Tuesday's cataclysmic earthquake.

More and more, the focus fell on the daunting challenge of getting aid to survivors. United Nations peacekeepers patrolling the capital said people's anger was rising that aid hasn't been distributed quickly, and warned aid convoys to add security to guard against looting.

On Friday morning, no sign was seen of foreign assistance entering the downtown area, other than a U.S. Navy helicopter flying overhead.

Ordinary Haitians sensed the potential for an explosion of lawlessness. "We're worried that people will get a little uneasy," said attendant Jean Reynol, 37, explaining his gas station was ready to close immediately if violence breaks out.

"People who have not been eating or drinking for almost 50 hours and are already in a very poor situation," U.N. humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said in Geneva. "If they see a truck with something, or if they see a supermarket which has collapsed, they just rush to get something to eat."

The quake's destruction of Port-au-Prince's main prison complicated the security situation. International Red Cross spokesman Marcal Izard said some 4,000 prisoners had escaped and were freely roaming the streets.

"They obviously took advantage of this disaster," Izard said.

But Byrs said peacekeepers were maintaining security despite the challenges. "It's tense but they can cope," she said.

The U.N. World Food Program said post-quake looting of its food supplies long stored in Port-au-Prince appears to have been limited, contrary to an earlier report Friday. It said it would start handing out 6,000 tons of food aid recovered from a damaged warehouse in the city's Cite Soleil slum.

A spokeswoman for the Rome-based agency, Emilia Casella, said the WFP was preparing shipments of enough ready-to-eat meals to feed 2 million Haitians for a month. She noted that regular food stores in the city had been emptied by looters.

More than 100 paratroopers of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division arrived at the Port au Prince airport overnight, boosting the U.S. military presence to several hundred on the ground here, and others have arrived off Port-au-Prince harbor on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

"We have much more support on the way. Our priority is getting relief out to the needy people," Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, deputy commander of the U.S. Southern Command, told ABC's "Good Morning America."

The command said other paratroopers and Marines would raise the U.S. presence to 8,000 troops in the coming days. Their efforts will include providing security, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Helicopters have been ferrying water and other relief supplies off the Vinson into the airport, U.S. military officials said. In the heart of Port-au-Prince, the need was clear.

In a tent city with thousands of displaced people, nurse Marimartha Syrel said she had been there since Tuesday night with no water. "We can't cook food. We can't do anything," she said.

At a window of a water treatment facility, Mary Verna was selling the last few bottles of treated water. The plant won't produce more until electricity is restored to the blacked-out city, she said.

"It's desperate because the water system in Port au Prince beforehand was not very good," said Paul Sherlock, Oxfam's senior humanitarian representative. "When an earthquake happens, any system — no matter how good — is going to have problems: pipes are broken and damaged. We don't know how bad that situation is right now."

Oxfam already had supplies of water in Haiti, left over from a 2008 storm, and has managed to get some 2,000-5,000-liter tanks into Port au Prince, Sherlock said.

At the airport, some 160 frantic and exhausted U.S. citizens, along with others stranded there for days, were begging for evacuation. "We've had people crying, people passing out," said Muriel Sinai, 38, a nurse from Orlando, Fla. American soldiers were sorting out the Americans, but it wasn't clear whether and when they might be flown out.

Hundreds of bodies were stacked outside the city morgue, and limbs of the dead protruded from the rubble of crushed schools and homes. A few workers were able to free people who had been trapped under the rubble for days.

French firefighters on Thursday pulled three people alive from the ruins of the Montana Hotel after being trapped for more than 50 hours. They were senior staff members of the Maryland-based aid organization IMA World Health, identified by the organization's Douglas Bright as IMA's president, Richard Santos, a vice president, Sarla Chand, and the group's Haiti program manager, Ann Varghese.

They had just finished a meeting at the hotel when the quake struck. But five Haitian employees of the organization were still missing, Bright said.

Driving a yellow backhoe through downtown Friday morning, Norde Pierre Rico said his government crew had cleared one house and found four people alive. But "there's no plan, no dispatch plan," he said, another sign of a lack of coordination and leadership in the rescue and aid efforts in these early days of the crisis.

Experts say people trapped by Tuesday's quake would begin to succumb if they go without water for three or four days.

Haitian President Rene Preval told The Miami Herald that over a 20-hour period, government crews had removed 7,000 corpses from the streets and morgues and buried them in mass graves.

For the long-suffering people of Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, shock was giving way to despair.

"We need food. The people are suffering. My neighbors and friends are suffering," said Sylvain Angerlotte, 22. "We don't have money. We don't have nothing to eat. We need pure water."

From Europe, Asia and the Americas, more than 20 governments, the U.N. and private aid groups were sending planeloads of high-energy biscuits and other food, tons of water, tents, blankets, water-purification gear, heavy equipment for removing debris, helicopters and other transport. Hundreds of search-and-rescue, medical and other specialists also headed to Haiti.

The WFP began organizing distribution centers for food and water Thursday, said Kim Bolduc, acting chief of the large U.N. mission in Haiti. She said that "the risk of having social unrest very soon" made it important to move quickly.

Governments and government agencies have pledged about $400 million worth of aid, including $100 million from the United States.

But the global helping hand was slowed by a damaged seaport and an airport that turned away civilian aid planes for eight hours Thursday because of a lack of space and fuel.

At Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport, a stream of U.S. military cargo planes was landing Friday, but they had to circle for an hour before getting clearance to land because the quake destroyed the control tower and radar control, and the U.S. military was using emergency procedures.

Aid workers have been blocked by debris on inadequate roads and by survivors gathered in the open out of fear of aftershocks from the 7.0-magnitude quake and re-entering unstable buildings.

"The physical destruction is so great that physically getting from point A to B with the supplies is not an easy task," Casella, the WFP spokeswoman in Geneva, said at a news conference.

Across the sprawling, hilly city, people milled about in open areas, hopeful for help, sometimes setting up camps amid piles of salvaged goods, including food scavenged from the rubble.

Small groups could be seen burying dead by roadsides. Other dust-covered bodies were dragged down streets, toward hospitals where relatives hoped to leave them. Countless dead remained unburied. Outside one pharmacy, the body of a woman was covered by a sheet, a small bundle atop her, a tiny foot poking from its covering.

Aid worker Fevil Dubien said some people were almost fighting over the water he distributed from a truck in a northern Port-au-Prince neighborhood.

Elsewhere, about 50 Haitians yearning for food and water rushed toward two employees wearing "Food For The Poor" T-shirts as they entered the international agency's damaged building.

"We heard a commotion at the door, knocking at it, trying to get in," said project manager Liony Batista. "'What's going on? Are you giving us some food?' We said, 'Uh-oh.' You never know when people are going over the edge."

Batista said he and others tried to calm the crowd, which eventually dispersed after being told food hadn't yet arrived.

"We're not trying to run away from what we do," Batista said, adding that coordinating aid has been a challenge. "People looked desperate, people looked hungry, people looked lost."

—Associated Press contributors to this story: Jonathan M. Katz, Tamara Lush and Jennifer Kay in Port-au-Prince; Bradley S. Klapper in Geneva; Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations; Tales Azzoni in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Danica Coto and David McFadden in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Matthew Lee and Pauline Je


TheOriginalCA 8 years, 4 months ago

Hmmm, and WHERE, may I ask, is the disdain for FEMA and Obama?

lawrencechick 8 years, 4 months ago

I'm sorry, but anyone roaming with machetes and taking supplies should be shot on site. It's a horrible situation but those people shouldn't be allowed to make it worse.

monkeyhawk 8 years, 4 months ago

I don't think it would be a good thing to help out Chavez. I'm sure some bozo would disagree...

Earthquake strikes Venezuela

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 4 months ago

So let me get this straight, monkeyhawk-- If the people of Venezuela need assistance in the aftermath of this earthquake, they shouldn't get it just to spite Chavez (and apparently me?)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 4 months ago

"Does CO2 cause earth quakes?"

You've been watching too much of Pat Robertson.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 4 months ago

If I were in that situation I would get food and water from where ever I could for me and my family. Please do not judge everyone in Haiti by the few who are carrying machetes and actually looting as opposed to those who are grabbing food and water and medicine. The infrastructure in Haiti is so bad it is really difficult to get the planes on the ground and then unloaded and then distribute the supplies. Plus they are running out of jet fuel at the airport. I feel for these people and know that the United States and other countries should help them as much as possible. Thank you President Obama, for being in the White House at this time in history, because you are tough and compassionate, whichever is needed.

jonas_opines 8 years, 4 months ago

"One would have to have sold their soul to devil to even consider stealing shoes off a victim in these circumstances."

Or in desperate, abject poverty. The dead guy doesn't need shoes.

And nikes? You are completely clueless, aren't you? Maybe ones made in the early 80's.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 4 months ago

I doubt that any of these people were wearing Nikes. Most of the people in Haiti wear flipflops which would not withstand the quake. Or, they may have been barefoot when the quake struck.

mseybold 8 years, 4 months ago

Connection between CO2 and earthquakes? Melting ice caps add more water to the ocean which in turn adds more force upon the ocean floor.

puddleglum 8 years, 4 months ago

"There is (or was) quite a bit of money in the capital compared to the rest of Haiti. "

uh, a better way to put that would be: The rest of Haiti is twice as poor as those in port au prince.

denak 8 years, 4 months ago

Machetes are a very common tool/weapon in Haiti. The fact that some are carrying them doesn't mean that the people are inherently violent.

Would you give up your gun in a situation like that????

As for all of you who are judging these individuals, how arrogant or clueless are you? You are sitting home (or at the library) typing on your computer in a building/home that has electricity, heat and water. You probably know what you are going to eat tonight, what you ate this morning and more than likely what you will eat tomorrow. Some of these people have not eaten for 3, 4, 5 days. There are families left without homes. There are kids left without parents.

How many of you would act any different? Yes, I know some of you think you would but the reality is, that most of us wouldn't act any different. I know for a fact, that if it meant taking someone's shoes off their dead body in order to get some food, I would do it if it meant that my child lived another day.

I don't apologize for that and I'm sure the people of Haiti wouldn't either.

Desperate times, desperate measures.


lawrencechick 8 years, 4 months ago

Tell that to the people in Rwanda or Seirra Leone who've had their limbs cut off with machetes. I imagine the people they are threatening are just as injured, hungry, and thirsty, but are no match against a machete. What a pathetic defense you give them.

orbiter 8 years, 4 months ago

Hey Monkeyhawk and Thing-

You don't want send humanitarian aid to Ven. because of Chavez? ("That's right Bozo! Not an MRE or a dime to Venezuela, EVER!") hahahahaha

Your ignorance is just so pathetic. Your indignation is laughable. Maybe you should research the issues you feel so strongly about rather than barking like blind dogs about them.

"Economic prospects remain mostly dependent on oil prices and the export of petroleum. The oil sector accounts for roughly 30% of GDP, 90% of export earnings, and more than half of the central government's ordinary revenues. Venezuela remains a leading supplier of imported crude and refined petroleum products to the United States."

US dollars prop up the entire Venezualan economy and especially Chavez's socialist program. And you're worried about a shipment freaking MREs?

hahahaha. Nice job, guys, as long as you are trying to be funny.

denak 8 years, 4 months ago


Seriously are you comparing the mentality of a genocide to the desperate actions of people who are starving, dislocated, hurt and desperate.

Far from being a pathetic attempt at defending, I am simply pointing out that a machete is a very common instrument in that part of the world( much like guns are in this country) and that carrying one does not automatically mean one is going to use it to hurt another individual.

I do think it is interesting of all that I posted in my post the one thing that you found fault with was the machete comment. I wonder if you chose that to criticize because the rest of the post made you feel so uncomfortable. I wonder just what, if anything, you have done to minimize the pain and suffering of the Haitian people.


leedavid 8 years, 4 months ago

Looks like Haiti is going to be the Obama Katrina. Looting, lack of supplies getting through. Three days in and they are running out of food and water....all sounds familiar, doesn't it? Where is Sean Penn with the film crew?

Maybe now we can all realize just how hard it is to recover from a disaster.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 4 months ago

"Looks like Haiti is going to be the Obama Katrina."

Can you clarify what you mean by that? (keeping in mind that Haiti is a different country and that it only happened a couple of days ago.)

Would you really be pleased if Obama were to actually spend the $billions that would be necessary to help them recover not only from the direct damage of the earthquake, but also from the dire poverty that has increased the order of magnitude of this disaster by several degrees?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 4 months ago

“Most of the people in Haiti wear flipflops which would not withstand the quake.”

My eyeballs can not withstand reading any more of Irish' weird statements.


It was oddly described, but it's probably not wholly inaccurate, either, Tom.

leedavid 8 years, 4 months ago

Bozo surely you can see the comparison. Supplies not getting to the people, looting, poor coordination and people sitting around to help but they don't have direction. This is classic in major disasters, however just a few short years ago, it was Bush's fault.

I know Haiti is a seperate country. That is our military on the ground, we have been given control of the airport, Hillary goes in tomorrow, they have 100 million (min.) of our dollars and they will get millions more.

50YearResident 8 years, 4 months ago

I saw a picture of a quake victim which showed only his legs sticking out from under some concrete. Note, 1) He was bare footed. 2) His socks were laying on the ground under his feet. 3) I guess the quake shook his shoes of and tossed them so far away that his socks slide off his feet and landed very close to each foot. Want to bet he was wearing flip-flops? (with socks?)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 4 months ago

"Bozo surely you can see the comparison."

No, I don't, for the very reasons I listed above, which I repeat--Haiti is a different country and that it only happened a couple of days ago.

So, a direct comparison isn't possible, and never will be.

But I think you're disingenuous in even trying to make that comparison. If he ever committed to spending what it would actually take to address the situation, you'd probably complain that it's taking away from money that could be dropping 500-lbs. bombs on Afghan babies.

Sadly, you probably have nothing to worry about on that front.

leedavid 8 years, 4 months ago

Bozo....figures you would run from the facts and make noise about Afghan. How about this...three days and people are trapped in the rubble. We do not have any equipment movers there yet. How long can they remain without air, food, water, medical care before they die. What is the delay? We can build an air base anywhere in the world in 72 hours. This is a mess and we own it. Who else can help these people?

leedavid 8 years, 4 months ago

TomShewmon (Tom Shewmon) says…

The Great Satan to the rescue…..again. The “blame America” crowd should feel especially ashamed of themselves today. Porch? ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Leftest Danny Glover says the earthquake was because we did not get an world wide enviornmential agreement.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 4 months ago

"We can build an air base anywhere in the world in 72 hours."

No, we can't build an airbase that fast. Much of the problem is that the Haitian government was very shaky before the earthquake, and it has pretty much collapsed (quite literally) in the aftermath. Preparation for a disaster of this scale would have to be done months, if not years, in advance. The Haitians have never been in a position to do so, and the rest of the world has never shown much interest in picking up the slack.

But the US military has just been granted the authority to operate the airport, which should help eliminate the bottlenecks that have plagued delivery of supplies over the first few days of this disaster.

"This is a mess and we own it. Who else can help these people?"

I agree, we do own this mess to a very large degree (although we're hardly alone.) It's been centuries in the making, and pretty much every administration in US history has been complicit, either directly or through sheer neglect.

If you are really interested in seeing this country get on its feet, it's going to take billions of US tax dollars, and a willingness to allow the Haitians to chart their own course politically, even if conservatives here may have to hold their noses next time they elect someone like Aristide.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 4 months ago

BTW, the airport is the least of the delivery problem. Haiti's roads were bad before the earthquake. They are now all but impassable in the hardest hit areas, and there may never be enough helicopters brought in to take up the slack.

leedavid 8 years, 4 months ago

Bozo I agree, but yes we can clear woods and build an airport anywhere in the world in 72 hours and have done so since Viet Nam. The Air Force practices just that several times a year. This is including a theater, officer and NCO clubs, and a chapel, no less.

We blew the 72 hour survivor window by not getting heavy moving equipment there so the urgency has slipped. That is horrible, but that's what we did. So now its just recovery and supplies, resupply.

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