Turkey widens aid efforts for Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - From wire dispatches | 1/17/2010 12:00:00 AM |
Turkey widened its efforts Sunday to help quake-devastated Haiti as hard-working rescue teams clawed through the rubble of capital Port-au-Prince for the fifth straight day, continuing to drag out survivors even as the bodies piled up.
The United Nations said it had never confronted such a huge disaster.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry announced Sunday that Turkey has sent 10 tons of additional aid material to Haiti, bringing its total assistance dispatched to the poor Caribbean nation to 50 tons.
After three cargo planes carrying search-and-rescue teams, medical personnel and aid materials departed Ankara for Haiti on Saturday, two more planes left Sunday for the island country, the Foreign Ministry added.
Turkey, which has lost tens of thousands of people in earthquakes, has also provided financial aid of $1 million to Haiti, the minister said. Turkey announced earlier that it would dispatch a mobile hospital, two check-up devices, a 20-member relief team, 10 tons of medicine and medical equipment to the country.
Amid new anger over the relief operations, some Haitians fought Sunday for the rations that are getting through, as others carried the injured on their backs or in carts to emergency hospitals.
Though survivors are still being dragged out of the rubble, the true scale of the disaster is slowly beginning to emerge. Haiti’s government alone has already recovered 20,000 bodies – not counting those recovered by independent agencies or relatives themselves, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said. The Pan American Health Organization now says 50,000 to 100,000 people perished in the quake.
According to Bellerive, 100,000 would “seem to be the minimum.”
[HH] Worst disaster
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the earthquake the “most serious humanitarian crisis” to face the world body in decades as he left for Port-au-Prince. U.N. Humanitarian Spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs also declared the quake the worst disaster the international organization has ever faced, since so much government and U.N. capacity in the country was demolished. In that way, Byrs said in Geneva, it is worse than the cataclysmic Asian tsunami of 2004: “Everything is damaged.”
Most bodies are now being pushed into mass graves outside the capital to prevent the spread of disease. But intensive efforts are still being made to find survivors. Some 43 international teams comprising 1,739 rescue workers and 161 dogs have already scoured 60 percent of the worst-affected areas. Some 10,000 American troops are being sent to assist and secure these regions.
Search teams recovered the body of Tunisian diplomat Hedi Annabi, the United Nations chief of mission in Haiti, and other top U.N. officials who were killed when their headquarters collapsed.
Experts have said the rescue of people trapped beneath wreckage after three days is unlikely. But an American team pulled a woman alive from a collapsed university building where she had been trapped for 97 hours. Another crew got water to three survivors whose shouts could be heard deep in the pancaked ruins of a multistory supermarket.
At the Hotel Montana, the son of co-owner Nadine Cardoso said he could hear her voice from the rubble, and the effort to pull her to safety began. Twelve hours later, with more than 20 friends and relatives of the prominent community member watching early Sunday, she was lowered from a hill of debris on a stretcher.
Byrs said the way buildings had collapsed left “sufficient void spaces that allow for trapped victims to remain alive,” adding: “There is still hope. The conditions are very favorable. It’s exceptional and thank God for that.”
Rami Peltz, a rescuer with an Israeli team, disagreed, saying, “Today is the last day that I think we will be able to find survivors, mainly because of dehydration.”
[HH] Tens of thousands homeless
The Haitian government has meanwhile established 14 distribution points for food and other supplies as U.S. Army helicopters scout locations for more. Aid groups have also opened five emergency health centers and vital gear, such as water-purification units, continues to arrive from abroad.
On a hillside golf course, perhaps 50,000 people were sleeping in a makeshift tent city overlooking the stricken capital. Paratroopers with the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division flew there Saturday to set up a base for handing out water and food. After the initial frenzy among the waiting crowd, when helicopters could only hover and toss out their cargo, a second flight landed and soldiers passed out some 2,000 military-issue ready-to-eat meals to an orderly line of Haitians.
But aid delivery was still bogged down by congestion at the Port-au-Prince airport, quake damage at the seaport, poor roads and the fear of looters and robbers. “Many people are just fleeing to the countryside; they are looking for a place to stay and for food,” said Enel Legrand, a 24-year-old Haitian volunteer aid worker.
The airport congestion also touched off diplomatic rows between the U.S. military and other donor nations. France and Brazil both lodged official complaints that the U.S. military, in control of the international airport, had denied landing permission to relief flights from their countries.
Haitian President Rene Preval urged all to “keep our cool and coordinate and not throw accusations.”
In Port-au-Prince, hundreds of Haitians simply dropped to their knees outside a warehouse when workers with the agency Food for the Poor announced they would distribute rice, beans and other supplies.
“They started praying right then and there,” said project director Clement Belizaire.
Children and the elderly were asked to step first into line, and some 1,500 people received food, soap and rubber sandals before supplies ran out, he said.
Compiled from AA, AP and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.