Haiti to relocate 400,000 quake homeless

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Within days, the government will
move 400,000 people made homeless by Haiti's epic earthquake from
their squalid improvised camps throughout the shattered capital to
new resettlement areas on the outskirts, a top Haitian official
said Thursday.
Authorities are worried about sanitation and disease outbreaks
in makeshift settlements like the one on the city's central Champs
de Mars plaza, said Fritz Longchamp, chief of staff to President
Rene Preval.
"The Champ de Mars is no place for 1,000 or 10,000 people,"
Longchamp told The Associated Press. "They are going to be going
to places where they will have at least some adequate facilities."
He said buses would start moving the displaced people within a
week to 10 days, once new camps are ready. Brazilian U.N.
peacekeepers were already leveling land in the suburb of Croix des
Bouquets for a new tent city, the Geneva-based intergovernmental
International Organization for Migration reported Thursday.
The hundreds of thousands whose homes were destroyed in the Jan.
12 quake had settled in more than 200 open spaces around the city,
the lucky ones securing tents for their families, but most having
to make do living under the tropical sun on blankets, on plastic
sheets or under tarpaulins strung between tree limbs.
The announcement came as search-and-rescue teams packed their
dogs and gear Thursday, with hopes almost gone of finding any more
alive in the ruins. The focus shifted to keeping injured survivors
alive, fending off epidemics and getting help to the hundreds of
homeless still suffering.
"We're so, so hungry," said Felicie Colin, 77, lying outside
the ruins of her Port-au-Prince nursing home with dozens of other
elderly residents who have hardly eaten since the earthquake hit on
Jan. 12.
A melee erupted at one charity's food distribution point as
people broke into the storehouse, ran off with food and fought each
other over the bags.
As aftershocks still shook the city, aid workers were streaming
into Haiti with water, food, drugs, latrines, clothing, trucks,
construction equipment, telephones and tons of other relief
supplies. The international Red Cross called it the greatest
deployment of emergency responders in its 91-year history.
But the built-in bottlenecks of this desperately poor,
underdeveloped nation and the sheer scale of the catastrophe still
left many of the hundreds of thousands of victims without help. The
U.S. military reported a waiting list of 1,400 international relief
flights seeking to land on Port-au-Prince's single runway, where
120 to 140 flights were arriving daily.
"They don't see any food and water coming to them, and they are
frustrated," said Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.
Four ships managed to dock at the capital's earthquake-damaged
port, holding out the promise of a new avenue for getting aid to
the city. A Danish navy ship was seen unloading crates. But the
going was slow, since only one truck at a time could maneuver on
the crack-riven pier.
The picture was especially grim at emergency medical centers,
where shortages of surgeons, nurses, their tools and supplies have
backed up critical cases.
"A large number of those coming here are having to have
amputations, since their wounds are so infected," said Brynjulf
Ystgaard, a Norwegian surgeon at a Red Cross field hospital.
Food was reaching tens of thousands, but the need was much
greater. Perhaps no one was more desperate than the 80 or so
residents of the damaged Municipal Nursing Home, in a slum near the
shell of Port-au-Prince's devastated cathedral. The quake killed
six of the elderly, three others have since died of hunger and
exhaustion, and several more were barely clinging to life.
"Nobody cares," said Phileas Justin, 78. "Maybe they do just
want us to starve to death."
In the first eight days after the quake, they had eaten just a
bit of pasta cooked in gutter water and a bowl of rice each. On
Thursday, they had a small bowl of spaghetti and five bags of rice
and beans, and cooking oil, were delivered.
A dirty red sheet covered the body of Jean-Marc Luis, who died
late Wednesday. "He died of hunger," said security guard Nixon
Plantin. On Thursday, four days after The Associated Press first
reported on the patients' plight, workers from the British-based
HelpAge International visited and said they would help.
One by one, such deaths were adding to a Haitian
government-estimated toll of 200,000 dead, as reported by the
European Commission. It said 250,000 people were injured and 2
million homeless in the nation of 9 million.
As U.S. troops began patrolling Port-au-Prince to boost
security, sporadic looting and violence continued.
At a building in the Carrefour neighborhood where the
multi-faith Eagle Wings Foundation of West Palm Beach, Florida, was
to distribute food, quake victims from a nearby tent camp suddenly
stormed the stores and made off with what the charity's Rev. Robert
Nelson said were 50 tons of rice, oil, dried beans and salt. Fights
broke out as others stole food from the looters.
At least 124 people were saved by search-and-rescue teams that
worked tirelessly since soon after the quake, the European
Commission reported. But as hopes faded Thursday, so long after
untold numbers were trapped in the debris, some of the 1,700
specialists, working in four dozen teams with 160 dogs, began
Joe Downey, a fire battalion chief from an 80-member New York
City police and firefighter unit, said this was the worst
destruction his rescue team had ever seen.
"Katrina was bad," he said of the 2005 hurricane. "But this
was a magnitude at least 100 times worse."
On Thursday, 18 hospitals and emergency field hospitals were
working in Port-au-Prince. But the burden was overwhelming: Some
quake victims have waited for a week for treatment, and patients
were dying of sepsis from untreated wounds, according to Dr. Greg
Elder, deputy operations manager for Doctors Without Borders.
The Pan American Health Organization said hospitals need more
orthopedic surgeons and nurses, more supplies, and better
sanitation and water.
The Haitian government asked that mobile clinics be set up in
all of the more than 280 sites where Port-au-Prince's now-homeless
have resettled in tents or in the open air on blankets and plastic
Doctors warned, too, of potential outbreaks of diarrhea,
respiratory-tract infections and other communicable diseases among
hundreds of thousands living in overcrowded camps with poor
sanitation. A team of epidemiologists was on its way to assess that
situation, the Pan American Health Organization said.
The U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort, which dropped anchor
Wednesday outside Port-au-Prince harbor, should help significantly.
It was reinforcing its crew to 800 doctors, nurses and medical
technicians, increasing its hospital beds to almost 1,000, and
boosting its operating rooms from six to 11 in the next few days,
the Navy said.
The Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, taking over a small police port
as a triage center, were helicoptering injured out to the Comfort
on Thursday. "I'm hoping to get nearly 200 out today," said Lt.
Cmdr. Andrew Grabus, in charge of the landing zone where more than
30 choppers were in action.
Nervously waiting to be airlifted with her 1-year-old boy to the
Comfort, Shamaelle Gelin, 22, said his fractured leg had gone
untreated for a week and was badly infected. She was a "bit
scared" about her first flight and shipboard experience, "but of
course I'll stay with him," she said.
Almost $1 billion in foreign aid has been pledged to help Haiti
recover from the quake, and the White House said the U.S. share has
climbed to about $170 million.
The U.N. World Food Program said it has delivered at least 1
million rations to about 200,000 people, with each ration providing
the equivalent of a daily three meals. In the coming days, it plans
to deliver five-day rations to 100,000 people a day, it said. The
U.S. military said it was resuming air drops of water and meals on
parachute pallets into zones secured by U.S. troops.
On a hillside golf course overlooking Port-au-Prince, where a
U.S. 82nd Airborne Division unit set up its aid base, a tent city
of tens of thousands grew daily as word spread that the
paratroopers were distributing food.
"They are coming from all over the city," said bookkeeper and
camp resident Augustin Evans, 30. "They are coming because they
are hungry."
Beyond the capital, closer to the quake's epicenter to the
southwest, hundreds of Marines and Canadian troops were deploying
around Leogane and Jacmel.
More than 2,600 U.S. soldiers, Marines and airmen were on the
ground in Haiti, and more than 10,000 sailors and others were
offshore. The number on the ground was expected to grow to 4,600 by
the weekend.
In view of continuing looting and violence, American forces were
expected to reinforce the long-established U.N. peacekeeping force
here in escorting aid convoys. The U.N. was adding 2,000
peacekeepers to the 7,000 already in Haiti, and 1,500 more police
to the 2,100-member international force.
Haiti accepted an offer from the Dominican Republic to send 150
troops to help secure the crucial main road from the Dominican
border to Port-au-Prince, the United Nations announced Thursday
Associated Press writers contributing to this story included
Alfred de Montesquiou, Mike Melia, Jonathan M. Katz and Kevin
Maurer in Port-au-Prince; Charles J. Hanley and Martha Mendoza in
Mexico City; Bradley S. Klapper in Geneva; Edith M. Lederer at the
United Nations, and Pauline Jelinek in Washington.

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

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