Anger mounts as Haiti sees little sign of aid

Posted at 01/15/10 1:51 PM

PORT-AU-PRINCE – Anger and despair mounted in quake-hit Haiti with rotting bodies littering the streets and little sign of desperately needed international aid for the hundreds of thousands of victims.

The stench of death hung over the capital Port-au-Prince as residents, still clawing through rubble in the hunt for survivors, faced another night in the open, traumatized by aftershocks triggered by Tuesday's 7.0 earthquake.

Despite the launch of a massive international aid operation, there was no sign of heavy lifting equipment among the rubble even as tons of material and badly-needed supplies deluged the international airport.

Haitian officials have warned the overall death toll may top 100,000 and say 3 million people could have been affected by the powerful quake that ripped across the poorest nation in the Americas.

The International Red Cross said the quake, the largest in the Caribbean island nation in more than 150 years, has killed between 40,000 and 50,000 people.

"If international aid doesn't come, the situation will deteriorate quickly. We need water and food urgently," said Haitian survivor Lucille, still dazed by the scenes of devastation and carnage.

Sporadic gunshots were heard, and witnesses said there had already been some looting in a city that has endured bloodshed and violence and natural disasters over the past decades.

"More doctors, fewer journalists," one man yelled angrily, shaking his fists at a foreign media crew.

A giant US aircraft carrier was expected to drop anchor off the stricken Caribbean island nation on Friday and serve as a landing pad for a fleet of helicopters to bring emergency teams and vital supplies to quake victims.

But harrowing scenes were being repeated across the city as frustrated Haitians dug with their hands through mountains of concrete and rubble while the screams and moans of those buried below rang out.

Some people set up temporary shelters with sheets and covers in a public square, while others were trekking out carrying meager belongings, searching for safer places outside the city.

Hundreds of bodies, some mutilated and half-clothed, lay rotting outside the devastated central hospital as waves of distraught Haitians moved from corpse to corpse in search of their loved ones.

Haitian native and hip hop star Wyclef Jean described conditions as "the apocalypse" and said Haiti needed to raise a million dollars a day to survive.

"We spent the day picking up dead bodies, all day that's what we did. There's so much bodies in the streets that the morgues are filled up, the cemeteries are filled up," he told Fox News.

Doctors were struggling to treat the vast numbers of sick and injured, with medical charity Medecins Sans Frontiers speaking of patients with "severe traumas, head wounds, crushed limbs" and burns.

Communications remained poor, and moving around was hampered by destroyed roads and lack of fuel.
US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said eight search-and-rescue teams with a total of 260 people were on the ground, and 30 countries have pledged or already sent help.

China, France, Iceland, the United States and Venezuela were among those with teams in situ, with Washington sending ships, helicopters, planes, rescue teams, a floating hospital and more than 5,000 troops.

"Not only is the United States' commitment to Haiti growing, but also the international commitment as well," said Crowley.

The United States had also taken over air traffic control at the swamped airport which was now operating round-the-clock, he said. Flights were delayed though as staff struggled to unload supplies.

And little aid had trickled down to the streets. An AFP video showed scuffles breaking out as a helicopter dropped food over one part of the city.

Haitians were also angered they had had no word from their leaders.

One group trying to free a man trapped in the rubble of the tax office looked up wearily at the planes flying overhead.

"We hear on the radio that rescue teams are coming from the outside, but nothing is coming. We only have our fingers to look for survivors," said Jean-Baptiste Lafontin Wilfried.

Dozens of people were rescued thanks to frantic efforts and as sniffer dogs began to comb the ruins. But the moments of joy were few, compared to the death and destruction stalking the city.

The United Nations said 36 of its staffers had been killed, in the worst disaster in the global body's history. Another 188 were still missing.

US President Barack Obama sought to lift up a despairing people, facing acute shortages of food, water and shelter, offering 100 million dollars in immediate assistance.

"To the people of Haiti, we say clearly and with conviction, you will not be forsaken, you will not be forgotten," he said.

Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, along with Brazil and Canada and other concerned nations are planning to hold an international conference on Haiti's reconstruction, the French presidency said.

"People throughout the world want to help," said UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

"One of our biggest challenges will be to help them to help Haiti to the utmost," he warned.