Fears of violence as Haitians grow desperate for water, food

 

 
 
 
 
Haitian earthquake survivors queue for food distributed by UN staff and Sri Lankan soldiers amidst the rubble of toppled homes in downtown Leogane, near Port au Prince, Haiti, on Saturday. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake has caused widespread devastation and the loss of at least 50,000 lives in the Caribbean country.
 
 

Haitian earthquake survivors queue for food distributed by UN staff and Sri Lankan soldiers amidst the rubble of toppled homes in downtown Leogane, near Port au Prince, Haiti, on Saturday. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake has caused widespread devastation and the loss of at least 50,000 lives in the Caribbean country.

Photograph by: Thomas Coex, AFP/Getty Images

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Competition for scarce water and food led to sporadic outbreaks of violence across the earthquake-crippled Haitian capital Saturday.

Agence France-Presse, quoting local media, said two Dominicans were seriously wounded after being shot Saturday as they handed out aid. The news agency also reported isolated incidents of looting and gangs of machete-wielding thugs terrorizing survivors.

Officials feared the rising tension in Port-au-Prince could lead to street battles after days in which Haitians appeared to be walking around dazed by the tragedy.

“It takes time for all this aid to be distributed,” said Ronald Ackermans, a Belgian veteran of search-and-rescue operations in past disasters.

Meantime, medical teams tending to the wounded were finding everything in short supply — everything that is but the wounded.

At the field hospital by the Laboratoire National de Sante Public in Port-au-Prince, Canadian military personnel were reusing latex gloves and resorting to cardboard ripped from supply boxes for splints Saturday.

“We use what we have. We don’t have a lot of supplies. That is why we use cardboard. It works, it is stable,” said Cpl. Alexander Robitaille, a medic with the Canadian Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART).

Elsewhere, scores of desperate quake survivors struggled Saturday to get their hands on bottled water being distributed by one aid group. And tempers flared at a gas station as drivers got out of their cars to battle one another for access to pumps.

The Caribbean country was devastated by last Tuesday’s 7.0 magnitude quake. Especially hard hit is Port-au-Prince, where much of the city, including the Presidential Palace, government and UN buildings, homes and a hospital have been levelled.

Some estimates were placing the death toll as high as 200,000. That estimate came from Haitian officials, while the Red Cross has put it at closer to 50,000.

Meanwhile, the confirmed toll of Canadians reached 11 Saturday, with the discovery of the body of Antoine Craan, a former Quebec sports figure who was the director of the Ecole federale de l’arbitrage de football in Haiti and was killed when his building collapsed during the quake.

Also confirmed Saturday were the deaths of RCMP Supt. Doug Coates, a Gatineau, Que., resident who was acting as police commissioner for the United Nations in Haiti, and Denis Bellavance, a teacher from Drummondville, Que., who was killed as he gave a lecture at the Port-au-Prince University as the quake hit.

Officials say there are 1,362 Canadians unaccounted for in the country. The Canadian Embassy is continuing to evacuate Canadians from Haiti. More than 500 have managed to get back to Canada aboard Canadian Forces planes.

In a grim assessment of the toll the quake has taken, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told an Ottawa news conference earlier Saturday the progress from international efforts to help Haiti has been virtually wiped out.

“We have to start from scratch” with a long-term commitment when the current emergency is over, Harper told reporters.

“To stabilize things for a couple of years and then leave, would be a disastrous approach.”

As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Haiti on Saturday, planning continued for the expected arrival Monday of between 5,000 and 9,000 U.S. Marines and soldiers, who will be used to secure the airport, hospitals and other essential facilities, and also to help assure security when aid is distributed in devastated neighbourhoods.

Current international troop strength is thinly spread, as Ackermans learned Friday when he asked Canadian troops to assure overnight security at the Laboratoire National de Sante, where triage is underway.

“We asked them to stay throughout the night, but they said they had to go,” he said.

The lack of a protection led Ackermans, chief of the 60-strong Belgian rescue-and-medical team at the centre, to withdraw for the night — leaving badly injured patients in the care of Haitian medical personnel.

A Canadian military spokesman said it had been made clear ahead of the deployment that Canada was not providing a security force.

“This was a six-person medical team accompanied by a few armed guards, and we had to leave for our own security considerations,” the official said.

“When you are in a city this devastated, crime and security is a consideration for everybody — even for the people who are trying to help.”

Meanwhile, AFP reported UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will pay a visit to Haiti Sunday. He is expected to meet Haitian President Rene Preval and pledge the world body’s full support. Quoting the Mexican foreign ministry, AFP also said the UN Security Council will meet Monday to co-ordinate the aid operation.

Canwest News Service

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Haitian earthquake survivors queue for food distributed by UN staff and Sri Lankan soldiers amidst the rubble of toppled homes in downtown Leogane, near Port au Prince, Haiti, on Saturday. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake has caused widespread devastation and the loss of at least 50,000 lives in the Caribbean country.
 

Haitian earthquake survivors queue for food distributed by UN staff and Sri Lankan soldiers amidst the rubble of toppled homes in downtown Leogane, near Port au Prince, Haiti, on Saturday. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake has caused widespread devastation and the loss of at least 50,000 lives in the Caribbean country.

Photograph by: Thomas Coex, AFP/Getty Images

 
Haitian earthquake survivors queue for food distributed by UN staff and Sri Lankan soldiers amidst the rubble of toppled homes in downtown Leogane, near Port au Prince, Haiti, on Saturday. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake has caused widespread devastation and the loss of at least 50,000 lives in the Caribbean country.
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (C) and Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay (R) listen to Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon during a news conference about Tuesday's earthquake in Haiti, in Ottawa January 16, 2010.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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