Fri, Jan 15, 2010 - Page 1 News List

World scrambles to bring aid to Haiti quake victims

SAVING LIVES Planeloads of rescue teams and relief supplies from different parts of the world arrived amid fears that the temblor may have killed more than 100,000


Rescue teams, doctors and soldiers rushed by land, sea and air yesterday to bring life-saving food and medicines to the survivors of Haiti’s devastating earthquake.

From all corners of the world, a vast relief operation swung into top gear as hundreds of thousands of homeless, injured and traumatized people spent a second night on the corpse-strewn streets and sidewalks of Port-au-Prince.

Planes began arriving at the capital’s still-functioning airport, bringing surgeons, field hospitals, water and emergency medical supplies, while search and rescue teams with sniffer dogs readied to pick through the debris.

Governments and aid organizations unlocked millions of dollars and launched appeals for more to aid survivors and help reconstruct ruined homes, schools and hospitals in help one of the world’s poorest nations.

Haiti’s prime minister said Tuesday’s 7.0 magnitude quake, which flattened Port-au-Prince, may have killed more than 100,000 people.

Planeloads of rescue teams and relief supplies were quickly dispatched from countries, including the US, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia and Spain.

“I have directed my administration to respond with a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives,” US President Barack Obama said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returned from a trip to help coordinate the US operation, with forward teams of civilian and military experts already landing at the scene.

More rescuers and equipment were on their way by sea and overland from the neighboring Dominican Republic.

The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier was set to arrive later yesterday with destroyers and more Coast Guard ships, and 5,000 troops were on stand-by.

Former US president Bill Clinton, now the UN special envoy in Haiti, appealed for funds, saying even a dollar or two would help alleviate “one of the great humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas.”

“What Haiti needs most is money for water, food, shelter and basic medical supplies to bring immediate relief to those who are homeless, hungry and hurt,” he wrote in a commentary for the Washington Post.

The Red Cross launched a US$10 million appeal for donations, the World Food Programme offered 15,000 tonnes of food and the World Bank promised an extra US$100 million in aid.

“We are entering a critical period. There must be massive humanitarian aid arriving this evening,” said Olivier Bernard, president of the medical relief agency organization Medecins du Monde.

“To save lives, surgery must be available ideally within the first 48 hours,” he said.

A British flight carrying some 75 officials and rescue specialists arrived in the Dominican Republic en route to Haiti. They were accompanied by sniffer dogs and 10 tonnes of equipment.

Douglas Alexander, minister of international development, said London would put up nearly US$10 million.

“The most basic needs — the need for shelter, the need for water, the need for medicine and the need for food — are going to emerge, we sense, on an immense scale in the hours, days and weeks ahead,” he told BBC radio.

The international Red Cross said that it was sending 40 tonnes of medical supplies, while the International Organization for Migration called for “tents, tents and more tents” to shelter the homeless.

A Chinese aircraft bringing relief workers and 20 tonnes of aid has reached Haiti, Xinhua reported, while the Chinese Red Cross Society is donating US$1 million in supplies. Israel said it was sending two planes with a field hospital and about 220 emergency personnel.

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