Haiti quake aid snarled; up to 50,000 feared dead

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Doctors and search dogs, troops and
rescue teams flew to this devastated land of dazed, dead and dying
people Thursday, finding bottlenecks everywhere, beginning at a
main airport short on jet fuel and ramp space and without a control
The international Red Cross estimated 45,000 to 50,000 people
were killed in Tuesday's cataclysmic earthquake, based on
information from the Haitian Red Cross and government officials.
Hard-pressed recovery teams resorted to using bulldozers to
transport loads of dead.
Worries mounted, meanwhile, about food and water for the
survivors. "People have been almost fighting for water," aid
worker Fevil Dubien said as he distributed water from a truck in a
northern Port-au-Prince neighborhood.
From Virginia, from France, from China, a handful of rescue
teams were able to get down to work, scouring the rubble for
survivors. In one "small miracle," searchers pulled a security
guard alive from beneath the collapsed concrete floors of the U.N.
peacekeeping headquarters, where many others were entombed.
But the silence of the dead otherwise was overwhelming in a city
where uncounted bodies littered the streets in the 80-degree heat,
and dust-caked arms and legs reached, frozen and lifeless, from the
ruins. Outside the General Hospital morgue, hundreds of collected
corpses blanketed the parking lot, as the grief-stricken searched
among them for loved ones. Brazilian U.N. peacekeepers, key to city
security, were trying to organize mass burials.
Patience already was wearing thin among the poorest who were
waiting for aid, said David Wimhurst, spokesman for the U.N.
peacekeeping mission.
"They want us to provide them with help, which is, of course,
what we want to do," he said. But they see U.N. vehicles
patrolling the streets to maintain calm, and not delivering aid,
and "they're slowly getting more angry and impatient," he said.
In Washington, President Barack Obama announced "one of the
largest relief efforts in our recent history," starting with $100
million in aid. The U.S. Southern Command reported the first 100 of
a planned 900 paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division landed in
Haiti from North Carolina on Thursday to support disaster relief,
to be followed this weekend by more than 2,000 Marines. The
American troops "will relieve pressure" on overworked U.N.
elements, Wimhurst said.
From Europe, Asia and the Americas, other 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, and teams of hundreds of
search-and-rescue, medical and other specialists.
But two days after much of this ramshackle city was shattered,
the global helping hand was slowed by the poor roads, airport and
seaport of a wretchedly poor nation.
Some 60 aid flights had arrived by midday Thursday, but they
then had to contend with the chokepoint of an overloaded Toussaint
L'Ouverture International Airport. At midday, the Federal Aviation
Administration said it was temporarily halting all civilian flights
from the U.S. at Haiti's request, because the airport was jammed
and jet fuel was limited for return flights. The control tower had
been destroyed in Tuesday's tremor, complicating air traffic.
Civilian relief flights were later allowed to resume.
"There's only so much concrete" for parking planes, U.S. Air
Force Col. Buck Elton said at the airport. "It's a constant puzzle
of trying to move aircraft in and out."
Teams that did land then had to navigate Haiti's inadequate
roads, sometimes blocked by debris or by quake survivors looking
for safe open areas as aftershocks still rumbled through the city.
The U.N. World Food Program said the quake-damaged seaport made
ship deliveries of aid impossible.
The looting of shops that broke out after the 7.0-magnitude
quake struck late Tuesday afternoon added to concerns. The
Brazilian military warned aid convoys to add security to guard
against looting by the desperate population.
"There is no other way to get provisions," American Red Cross
representative Matt Marek said of the store looting. "Even if you
have money, those resources are going to be exhausted in a few
days." The city's "ti-marchant," mostly women who sell food on
the streets, were expected to run out soon. Red Cross officials
have estimated one-third of Haiti's 9 million people are in need of
The quake brought down Port-au-Prince's gleaming white National
Palace and other government buildings, disabling much of the
national leadership. That vacuum was evident Thursday. No senior
Haitian government officials were visible at the airport, although
President Leonel Fernandez of the neighboring Dominican Republic
said after meeting with President Rene Preval that the Haitian
leader was in control of the situation, working from the airport.
"Donations are coming in to the airport here, but there is not
yet a system to get it in," said Kate Conradt, a spokeswoman for
the Save the Children aid group. "It's necessary to create a
structure to stock and distribute supplies," the Brazilian
military said.
Edmond Mulet, a former U.N. peacekeeping chief in Haiti, arrived
Thursday from U.N. headquarters in New York to lead the relief
effort, along with a U.N. disaster coordination team. The first
U.S. military units to arrive took on a coordinating role at the
airport, but State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley underlined,
"We're not taking over Haiti."
Wimhurst said the Haitian police "are not visible at all," no
doubt because many had to deal with lost homes and family members,
and law-and-order needs had fallen completely to the 9,000 U.N.
peacekeepers and international police in Haiti.
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 by roadsides could be seen burying dead. Other dust-covered
bodies were being dragged down streets, toward hospitals where
relatives hoped to leave them. Countless remained unburied, stacked
up, children's bodies lying atop mothers, tiny feet poking from
The injured, meanwhile, waited for treatment in makeshift
holding areas - outside the General Hospital, for example, where
the stench from piles of dead, just a few yards (meters) away,
wafted over the assembled living. Crews began removing unclaimed
bodies with bulldozers, dumping them into trucks, possibly for mass
Heavy damage to at least eight Port-au-Prince hospitals severely
hampered efforts to treat the many thousands of injured, the World
Health Organization said in Geneva. At least 2,000 injured were
reported to have been treated at hospitals next door in the
Dominican Republic, including the president of the Haitian Senate,
Kelly Bestien.
Here and there, small tragedies unfolded. In the Petionville
suburb, friends held back Kettely Clerge - "I want to see her,"
she sobbed - as neighbors with bare hands tried to dig out her
9-year-old goddaughter, Harryssa Keem Clerge, pleading for rescue,
from beneath their home's rubble.
"There's no police, there's nobody," the hopeless godmother
cried. By day's end, the girl was dead.
At the collapsed U.N. peacekeeping headquarters,
search-and-rescue firefighters from Fairfax County, Va., pulled an
Estonian guard, Tarmo Joveer, alive and unhurt from the ruins at 8
a.m. Thursday, 39 hours after the quake - a "small miracle,"
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in New York. But U.N. officials
reported that 36 other U.N. personnel, mostly peacekeepers and
international police, were confirmed dead and almost 200 remained
missing, including top staff.
Nearby, a rescue team from China, with sniffer dogs, clambered
through rubble and searched for signs of life. Two excavators stood
by, ready to dig for survivors - or dead. A French team, meanwhile,
rescued three people alive from the wrecked Montana Hotel, U.N.
officials reported.
European and Latin American nations reported scores of their
nationals unaccounted- for in Haiti, and a handful confirmed dead.
Of the estimated 45,000 Americans in Haiti, the U.S. Embassy had
contacted almost 1,000. Only one American was confirmed dead, a
veteran Foreign Service officer, Victoria DeLong, killed in her
collapsed home.
For the long-suffering people of Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's
poorest nation, shock and disbelief were 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."
But life also went on. Brazilian soldiers helped deliver a baby
girl in an improvised garage-hospital at their base, just hours
after the quake hit. Capt. Fabricio Almeida de Moura said the child
was doing well, but the life of the mother, who apparently went
into labor from the shock of the tremor, was in danger from
bleeding, the Agencia Brasil news service reported.
The unimaginable scope of the catastrophe left many Haitians, a
fervently religious people, in helpless tears and prayer.
Reached by The Associated Press from New York, Yael Talleyrand,
a 16-year-old student in Jacmel, on Haiti's south coast, told of
thousands of people made homeless by the quake and sleeping on an
airfield runway, "crying, praying and I had never seen this in my
entire life."
Earlier, she said, one woman had run through Jacmel's streets
screaming, "God, we know you can kill us! We know you're
strongest! You don't need to show us!"
Associated Press contributors to this story: Mike Melia,
Jennifer Kay and Gregory Bull in Port-au-Prince; Alexander G.
Higgins in Geneva; Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations; Tales
Azzoni in Sao Paulo, Brazil; David McFadden in San Juan, Puerto
Rico; Adam Geller in New York; Matthew Lee and Pauline Jelinek in

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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