Anger rises over Haiti quake aid effort

Peacekeepers in Port-au-Prince say anger is rising as Haitians grow increasingly desperate.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI // Aid workers hoping to distribute food, water and other supplies to a shattered Port-au-Prince are warning their efforts may need more security today as Haitians grow increasingly desperate and impatient for help. United Nations peacekeepers patrolling the capital said people's anger is rising that aid hasn't been distributed quickly, and the Brazilian military warned aid convoys to add security to guard against looting.

"Unfortunately, they're slowly getting more angry and impatient," said David Wimhurst, spokesman for the Brazilian-commanded UN peacekeeping mission. "We're all aware that the situation is getting more tense as the poorest people who need so much are waiting for deliveries. I think tempers might be frayed." The UN World Food Program (WFP) reported today that its warehouses in the Haitian capital had been looted since Tuesday's cataclysmic earthquake. It did not know how much of its pre-quake stockpile of 15,000 tons of food aid remained. A spokeswoman for the Geneva-based agency, Emilia Casella, noted that regular food stores in the city had also been emptied by looters.

Ms Casella said the WFP was preparing shipments of enough ready-to-eat meals to feed 2 million Haitians for a month. The international Red Cross estimated 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in the quake on Tuesday, based on information from the Haitian Red Cross and government officials. Hundreds of bodies were stacked outside the city morgue, and limbs of the dead protruded from the rubble of crushed schools and homes.

A few workers were able to free people who had been trapped under the rubble for days, but others attended to the grim task of using bulldozers to transport loads of bodies. For the long-suffering people of Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, shock was giving way to despair. "We need food. The people are suffering. My neighbours and friends are suffering," said Sylvain Angerlotte, 22. "We don't have money. We don't have nothing to eat. We need pure water."

From Europe, Asia and the Americas, more than 20 governments, the UN and private aid groups were sending planeloads of high-energy biscuits and other food, tonnes of water, tents, blankets, water-purification gear, heavy equipment for removing debris, helicopters and other transport. Hundreds of search-and-rescue, medical and other specialists also headed to Haiti. The UN World Food Program began organising distribution centres for food and water on Thursday, said Kim Bolduc, acting chief of the large UN mission in this desperately poor country.

She said it was remarkable there were no widespread reports of looting, but added that "the risk of having social unrest very soon" made it important to move quickly. Governments and government agencies have pledged about US$400 million (Dh1469 million) worth of aid, including US$100 million from the United States. But into the third day following the 7.0-magnitude quake, the global helping hand was slowed by a damaged seaport and an airport that turned away civilian aid planes for eight hours Thursday because of a lack of space and fuel.

Aid workers have been blocked by debris on inadequate roads and by survivors gathered in the open out of fear of aftershocks and re-entering unstable buildings. Across the sprawling, hilly city, people milled about in open areas, hopeful for help, sometimes setting up camps amid piles of salvaged goods, including food scavenged from the rubble. Small groups could be seen burying dead by roadsides. Other dust-covered bodies were being dragged down streets, toward hospitals where relatives hoped to leave them. Countless dead remained unburied, some in piles. Outside one pharmacy, the body of a woman was covered by a sheet, a small bundle atop her, a tiny foot poking from its covering.

Engineers from the UN mission have begun clearing some main roads, and law-and-order duties have fallen completely to the mission's 3,000 international troops and police. About 5,500 US soldiers and Marines were expected to be in Haiti by Monday. Their efforts will include providing security, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. Mr Wimhurst, the mission spokesman, said Haitian police "are not visible at all," no doubt because many had to deal with lost homes and family members. The first US military units to arrive took on a co-ordinating role at the airport.

* AP

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