Tensions rose among desperate Haitians awaiting international aid and food that began to trickle in three days after an earthquake that Haitian authorities say killed 200,000 people.
Haiti’s shell-shocked government gave the US control over its main airport to bring order to aid flights from around the world and speed relief to the impoverished Caribbean nation.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was heading to Port-au-Prince yesterday to meet with Haitian President Rene Preval at the airport. Her plane was to bring in supplies and return with evacuated Americans.
“We will also be conveying very directly and personally to the Haitian people our long-term unwavering support, solidarity and sympathies,” Clinton said.
Trucks piled with corpses have been carrying bodies to hurriedly excavated mass graves outside the city, but thousands of bodies still are believed buried under rubble.
“We have already collected around 50,000 dead bodies,” Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien-Aime said. “We anticipate there will be between 100,000 and 200,000 dead in total, although we will never know the exact number.”
Some 40,000 bodies had been buried in mass graves, Haitian Secretary of State for Public Safety Aramick Louis said.
If the casualty figures turn out to be accurate, the 7.0 magnitude quake that hit Haiti on Tuesday and flattened much of its capital city would be one of the 10 deadliest ever recorded.
Health Minister Alex Larsen said three-quarters of Port-au-Prince will have to be rebuilt.
Three days after the earthquake struck, gangs of robbers had begun preying on survivors living in makeshift camps on streets strewn with debris and decomposing bodies, as aftershocks rippled through the hilly neighborhoods. Authorities reported some looting and growing anger among survivors despairing over the delay in life-saving assistance. Meanwhile, the US and other nations rushed to deliver food, water and medical supplies through a jammed airport, a smashed seaport and roads littered with rubble.
FIGHTING FOR FOOD
Hungry residents fought each other for bags of foods handed out by UN trucks in downtown Port-au-Prince.
A senior UN official warned that hunger would fuel trouble if aid does not arrive promptly, although the law and order situation remained under control “for the time being.”
“There have been some incidents where people were looting or fighting for food. They are desperate, they have been three days without food or any assistance,” UN Undersecretary General for Peacekeeping Alain Le Roy told The PBS NewsHour.
“We have to make sure that the situation doesn’t unravel, but for that we need very much to ensure that the assistance is coming as quickly as possible so that the people who are dying for food and medicine get them as soon as possible,” he said.
The UN mission responsible for security in Haiti lost at least 36 of its 9,000 members when its headquarters collapsed. Its two top officials have not been accounted for.
The weakened Haitian government was in no better position to handle the crisis. The quake destroyed the presidential palace and knocked out communications and power.
Preval and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive were living and working in the judicial police headquarters.
“I do not have a home; I do not have a telephone. This is my palace now,” the president said in an interview. “We have to make sure there is gas available ... for the trucks collecting the bodies. The hospitals are full, they are overwhelmed.”
US President Barack Obama, who pledged an initial US$100 million in quake relief, promised the US would do what is necessary to save lives and get Haiti back on its feet.
“The scale of the devastation is extraordinary ... and the losses are heartbreaking,” Obama said at the White House.
Obama said the US, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, France, Colombia, Russia, Japan, Britain and other countries managed to fly in rescue and logistics personnel and supplies. While some aid was getting in, the White House hoped improved logistics would streamline and accelerate the effort.
Planes and ships arrived with rescue teams, search dogs, tents, water purification units, food, doctors and telecoms teams, but faced a bottleneck at the small airport.
Air traffic control, hampered by damage to the airport’s tower, now will be handled by the US military with backup from a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
The USS Carl Vinson with 19 helicopters arrived off Haiti on Friday, opening a second significant channel to deliver help. Navy helicopters had begun taking water ashore and ferrying injured people to a field hospital near the airport.
The US military aimed to have about 1,000 troops on the ground in Haiti on Friday and thousands more in ships offshore. The total will reach 9,000 to 10,000 troops by tomorrow.
NO WATER, NO SUPPLIES
The Pan American Health Organization said at least eight hospitals and health centers in Port-au-Prince had collapsed or sustained damage and were unable to function.
“We have no supplies. We need surgical gloves, antibiotics, antiseptic, disinfectant,” said a doctor, Jean Dieudonne Occelien. “We have nothing. Not even water. We have children out here with dry mouths and no water to give them.”
Police were scarcely seen on the streets and although some Brazilian UN peacekeepers were patrolling, there were reports of sporadic scavenging, some looting and one report of gunshots in downtown Port-au-Prince on Friday.
At one collapsed supermarket, scores of people swarmed over the rubble to try to reach the food underneath. Just outside the Cite Soleil slum, desperate people crowded around a burst water pipe, jostling to drink from the pipe or fill buckets.
Raggedly dressed survivors held out their arms to reporters touring the city, begging for food and water.
SECURITY CONCERNS: The Telecom Technology Center ran black-box tests for the Executive Yuan on devices and software from Chinese, US and South Korean firms Network devices from several Chinese manufacturers are insecure and allow personal information to be leaked, testing commissioned by the Executive Yuan has shown. A variety of devices and software, including apps, from Chinese, US and South Korean manufacturers that are used by government agencies at the central and local level were subjected to black-box testing — in which the functionality of an application is examined without knowing about its internal structure, an information-security official said yesterday on condition of anonymity. The Telecom Technology Center conducted the tests, which simulated cyberattacks, to determine their resilience to the attacks, the official said. The center
Americans awoke yesterday to charred and glass-strewn streets in dozens of cities after another night of unrest fueled by rage over the mistreatment of African Americans at the hands of police, who responded to the violence with tear gas and rubber bullets. Tens of thousands marched peacefully through streets to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died on Monday last week after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck until he stopped breathing. However, many demonstrations sank into chaos as night fell: Vehicles and businesses were torched. The words “I can’t breathe” were
The nation marked its 49th day with no new domestic COVID-19 cases yesterday, and there were no new imported cases, but that does not mean the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) can relax its attention, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said yesterday in Tainan as he and a team of health officials wrapped up a weekend visit to the city. The visit is part of the center’s efforts to promote domestic travel under the “new disease prevention lifestyle.” Among the 442 confirmed cases, 423 have been released from isolation and 12 people remain hospitalized, Chen
EXTRA INVITATIONS: Russia, Australia, South Korea and India would be asked to a later summit dedicated to countering China, Donald Trump said US President Donald Trump has been forced to cancel a planned face-to-face summit of G7 leaders this month and now wants to host an expanded meeting in September dedicated to countering China to which Russian President Vladimir Putin would be invited. Trump on Saturday announced that he had canceled the June meeting, which he had billed as a symbol of the US “transitioning back to greatness,” after German Chancellor Angela Merkel told him in a telephone call that she saw the summit in Washington as a health risk. Hundreds of security staff, journalists and officials also attend the two-day summits. Reports suggest