More troops, aid flow to Haiti, but hunger, frustration persists

The staggering scope of the Haitian disaster came into sharper focus on Monday as authorities estimated the dead at 200,000, with even more injured and 1.5 million homeless.

A police officer aims at a man who was surprised taking goods from a quake-damaged building in downtown Port-au-Prince

A police officer aims at a man who was surprised taking goods from a quake-damaged building in downtown Port-au-Prince

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The staggering scope of the Haitian disaster came into sharper focus on Monday as authorities estimated the dead at 200,000, with even more injured and 1.5 million homeless.

Despite the arrival of foreign troops and aid, the unmet needs of hundreds of thousands grow by the hour as earthquake survivors die in the streets, doctors plead for help, and looters clambering over the ruins fight one another and police.

European countries pledged more than a half-billion dollars in emergency and long-term aid, on top of at least $100 million promised earlier by the U.S. But the president of the neighbouring Dominican Republic said it will cost far more to finally rebuild the country: $10 billion.

Help was still not reaching many victims of last Tuesday’s quake — choked back by transportation bottlenecks, bureaucratic confusion, fear of attacks on aid convoys, the collapse of local authority and the sheer scale of the need.

Looting spread to more parts of downtown Port-au-Prince as hundreds of young men and boys clambered up broken walls to break into shops and take whatever they can find. Especially prized was toothpaste, which people smear under their noses to fend off the stench of decaying bodies.

At a collapsed and burning shop in the market area, youths used broken bottles, machetes and razors to battle for bottles of rum and police fired shots to break up the crowd.

“I am drinking as much as I can. It gives courage,” said Jean-Pierre Junior, wielding a broken wooden plank with nails to protect his bottle of rum.

Even so, the U.S. Army’s on-the-ground commander, Lt. Gen. Ken Keen, said the city is seeing less violence than before the earthquake. “Is there gang violence? Yes. Was there gang violence before the earthquake? Absolutely.”

U.S. officials say some 2,200 Marines were arriving to join 1,700 U.S. troops now on the ground and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced Monday he wants 1,500 more UN police and 2,000 more troops to join the existing 7,000 military peacekeepers and 2,100 international police in Haiti.

More than 200 Canadian Forces personnel are reported on the ground in Haiti and others are on the way.

In Ottawa, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said security is one of the key challenges in Haiti. The 1,000 Canadian soldiers departing for Haiti over the next week are facing an increasingly volatile situation. Some of them will be tasked with ensuring the “humanitarian corridor” remains open, Cannon said.

Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team will be focusing its efforts on the hard-hit town of Jacmel, just outside Haiti’s capital. Brig. Gen. Guy Laroche said the DART can have a significant impact in the town, whose population is much smaller than Port-au-Prince with its millions of residents.

Twelve Canadians were confirmed dead and 849 were unaccounted for as of Monday afternoon, the Foreign Affairs department said on its website Monday afternoon.

Two Canadian navy ships loaded with soldiers, equipment and supplies were arriving off Haiti. Canadian military aircraft have been flying in with supplies and personnel, and flying out with evacuees. Eleven flights had evacuated 987 Canadians from the quake zone.

While aid workers tried to make their way into Haiti, many people tried to leave. Hundreds of U.S. citizens, or people claiming to be, waved IDs as they formed a long line outside the U.S. Embassy in hopes of getting a flight out of the country. A similar scene was outside the Canadian Embassy, where a large crowd gathered hoping Canada would accept refugees.

Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, hosting an international meeting to plan strategy for Haiti, said it would cost $10 billion over five years to reconstruct the country and confront the immediate emergency.

Roughly 200,000 people may have been killed in the magnitude-7.0 quake, the European Union said, quoting Haitian officials who also said about 70,000 bodies have been recovered so far.

EU officials estimated that about 250,000 were injured and 1.5 million were homeless.

Even many people whose houses survived are sleeping outside for aftershocks will collapse unstable buildings. And while the UN said that more than 73,000 people have received a week’s rations, many more still wait.

So many people have lost homes that the World Food Program is planning a tent camp for 100,000 people — an instant city the size of Burbank, California — on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, according to the agency’s country director, Myrta Kaulard.

About 50,000 people already sleep each night on the city golf course where the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division has set up an aid camp.

In town, Bodies still lay in the street six days after the quake, but Haitians had made progress in hauling many away for burial or burning. People were seen dragging corpses to intersections in hopes that garbage trucks or aid groups would arrive to take them away.

Six days after the quake, dozens of rescue crews were still working to rescue victims trapped under piles of concrete and debris.

“There are still people living” in collapsed buildings, UN humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told The Associated Press. “Hope continues.”

The European Union Commission said it would contribute US$474 million in emergency and long-term aid to Haiti.

EU member states also poured $132 million in emergency aid, including $32.7 million from Britain and $14.4 million from France, which also said it was willing for forgive Haiti’s $55.7 million debt.

U.S. officials, meanwhile, agreed with UN officials on a system to grant priority to humanitarian flights, responded to criticism that military and rescue flights had sometimes been first in line, according to the UN.

Some countries and aid groups such as Geneva-based Doctors Without Borders had complained planes filled with doctors and medical supplies had been forced to land in the neighbouring Dominican Republic and come in by road, delaying urgent care for injured quake victims by two days.

The problem may be eased by U.S. expansion of the cramped airport’s capacity.

The U.S. military spokesman in Haiti, Cmdr. Chris Lounderman, said about 100 flights a day are now landing, up from 60 last week. “The ramp was designed for 16 large aircraft,” he said. “At times there were up to 40. That’s why there was gridlock.”

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who arrived with his daughter, toted crates of bottled water at the airport and shook hands with doctors at the capital’s General Hospital, crammed with about 1,500 patients. He promised that his foundation would provide medicine and a generator so that doctors there can work through the night.

Clinton is the UN special envoy for Haiti and he has joined former President George W. Bush in leading a campaign for donations to help the country.

– With files from The Canadian Press.