Full Picture of Haiti Devastation Emerges as International Aid Mobilized
Michael Bowman | Washington 14 January 2010
Death, devastation and deprivation prevail in Haiti's capital, as the full extent of the country's humanitarian crisis is being revealed to the world. The international community is rushing aid to earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince in the face of logistical challenges and with the knowledge that Haiti's needs far outpace anything that can be delivered in the short-term.
Two days after the 7.0 magnitude quake, the horror of the disaster is undiminished. In Port-au-Prince, sheet-draped bodies remain unclaimed, and untold numbers of people are trapped in rubble or missing and feared dead.
The ranks of the injured seeking scarce medical attention continue to grow. Seemingly countless people lack food and shelter, leaving streets packed with increasingly hungry, destitute survivors. Even among those whose homes did not collapse, fear of aftershocks has led many to remain outdoors.
Haitian President Rene Preval commented on the situation on NBC television's Today program.
"I am sure that I will not sleep in the street tonight. But I am sure a lot of people will sleep in the street tonight," he said.
Haiti's humanitarian crisis has sparked the biggest outpouring of international aid in response to a natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of Indonesia and surrounding nations.
The United States has mobilized thousands of troops and a massive contingent of civilian workers to respond to the Haitian crisis. Speaking at the White House, President Barack Obama said the initial U.S. response will exceed $100 million, and that more assistance will be forthcoming.
"To the people of Haiti, we say clearly and with conviction: You will not be forsaken. You will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you. The world stands with you," he said.
Dozens of other nations and a vast array of international organizations and aid groups have also sprung to action. Assistance is being dispatched from around the globe, including many faraway nations. Israel, for example, is sending a military medical team that will operate a field hospital in Haiti.
"Israel has quite a lot of experience in these kinds of earthquakes," said Israeli military official, Gidi Shenar. "We have been in several places in the world. We are bringing our knowledge and we are coming to assist the people over there and save lives. As fast as we can, we will be over there."
But obstacles remain. Diplomats and aid officials familiar with Haiti say that even before the quake, the country's roads and infrastructure were in poor condition or virtually non-existent. The temblor damaged Port-au-Prince's international airport as well as the city's seaport.
Speaking on NBC's Today show, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said U.S. teams have had logistical challenges to overcome.
"We have the airport open, thanks to the U.S. military," she said. "We have our civilian search-and-rescue teams on the ground. We are doing all we can."
Amid the devastation and loss of life in Haiti, there have been a precious few moments of joy - U.S. rescue workers pulled a security guard out of the rubble of the collapsed U.N. building in Port-au-Prince. But scores of U.N. personnel remain unaccounted for.
Shaken and frail, one woman was asked her reaction after family members rescued her from a collapsed house.
"I started crying. Yeah, I started crying," she said.
Haiti is the Western hemisphere's poorest nation, long-plagued by frequent hurricanes, political instability and chronic underdevelopment.
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