Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti toll and logistics hell continues to escalate each day

UN and other aid agencies warn they face major logistical challenges in getting essential relief to survivors of Haiti's deadly earthquake.

Some aid is being handed out, with World Food Program (WFP) spokesman Charles Vincent saying 2,400 people in some districts of the flattened Haitian capital Port-au-Prince should receive food today.
"Obviously it's a drop in a bucket but it's a start," he said, adding that distribution would be widened once roads were cleared.
"Most of the population have not had food for the whole day yesterday and today. As a result a certain insecurity is feared."
The scale of devastation caused by Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude quake means the WFP has been unable to gain access to its warehouses and Vincent was unsure if they had been damaged or looted.

A spokeswoman for the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Elisabeth Byrs, warned that relief agencies faced major logistics challenges on the ground. While the airport at Port-au-Prince was functioning, its control tower was still down, she said.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) appealed for tents to shelter homeless survivors and said it was was gearing up to distribute vital supplies.
"What we need is tents, tents and more tents. We need large or individual tents, whatever is available, and financial support quickly," Vincent Houver, the IOM's chief of mission in Haiti, said in a statement.
The organisation said it would provide tarpaulins, plastic sheeting, cans and water containers from stocks already in the impoverished country to help some 10,000 families.
Haiti's prime minister warned the death toll could top 100,000, though President Rene Preval gave a more conservative estimate of 50,000.
The death toll from Haiti's catastrophic earthquake will reach 10s of thousands of people, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

She described the earthquake as  "an unimaginable disaster" in the country.

Her stark warning came as an official close to George W. Bush confirmed to Fox News that the former US president plans to work closely with his democratic predecessor Bill Clinton, now a UN special envoy to Haiti, on relief efforts.

Britain pledged more than £6 million ($10.5 million) in aid to the devastated island nation, where residents were desperately awaiting a global effort to find and treat survivors from an earthquake that left streets strewn with corpses.

Schools, hospitals, hotels and even the presidential palace lay in ruins, with people caked in blood and dust pleading for help after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck just southwest of Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince on Tuesday.

Casualty figures were impossible to calculate, but Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told CNN the final death toll from the quake could be "well over 100,000."

Branches of the Red Cross and Red Crescent were expecting to help a "maximum of three million people," some of whom were still trapped beneath mountains of concrete.

The epicentre of the quake hit near the slum of Carrefour, where people were living in flimsy shacks. Initial reports suggested that over 90 per cent of its buildings are in ruins.

Cedric Perus, Oxfam's humanitarian coordinator in Port-au-Prince, said: "I have seen wounded people flooding into the hospitals, and buildings of several stories high that are now totally flat. Several thousands have probably died in the quake, but it will take time to get a full picture.

"Bodies may stay under the rubble for a long time because it is difficult to access some sites and heavy-lifting equipment is in limited supply.

"There are bodies all over the city," he said.

"People have nowhere to put them so they wrap them in sheets and cardboards in the hope that the authorities will pick them. People have also piled bodies in front of the city's main hospitals."


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